Get Connected
  • facebook
  • twitter
Print

UPDATE: DHHR says it can perform hepatitis tests again

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Department of Health and Human Resources has restocked kits to test West Virginians for hepatitis C, a department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

DHHR's Office of Laboratory Services told county health officials on Oct. 17 it had exhausted its hepatitis C testing supplies and would cease testing for about two weeks. The state blamed problems with a bid process.

The state conducted an emergency purchase of testing kits on Oct. 19 but failed to tell county health departments, department spokeswoman Marsha Dadisman said Tuesday. The department used a state credit card to buy the testing kits.

County health departments draw blood and send it to the state lab for testing. The office estimates it needs about 7,700 hepatitis C tests a year, an average of about 150 kits a week if they are all used.

The shortage of hepatitis C testing kits was first reported Tuesday morning.

Dadisman said later in the morning the department could now test incoming blood samples and a backlog of 78 samples.

"No specimen has gone undone," Dadisman said.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department routinely tests 30-40 patients a week for sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis C. The county relies on the state to analyze those samples.

On Monday afternoon, officials there did not know what they would do if there was an outbreak of hepatitis C. The state has not made public how it would deal with routine tests or with a possible outbreak.

The shortage of testing supplies came after the state was dissatisfied with companies who bid on the contract. The contract is worth about $140,000 a year and includes a variety of testing supplies.

After the state said it would temporarily cease testing, the state made an emergency purchase. The state can make purchases of up to $25,000 without going through the state's lengthier bidding process

______________________________________________________________

The state Department of Health and Human Resources has run out of kits to test West Virginians for hepatitis C.

DHHR's Office of Laboratory Services told county health departments last week the state had run out of test kits. The office blamed problems with a bid process.

County health departments draw blood and send it to the state's labs for testing. The office estimates it needs about 7,700 hepatitis C tests a year, an average of about 150 kits a week if they are all used. The office expects to get more kits by Nov. 1.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department routinely tests 30-40 patients a week for sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis C. The county relies on the state to analyze those samples.

In the meantime, the state has not made public how it will deal with those routine tests or with a possible outbreak.

Susan Jordan, nurse supervisor for the county health department, said a patient came in last week to get screened for STDs.

"She was very irate she could not receive the hepatitis C testing," Jordan said.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, county health department executive director, said the state has known about the shortage of kits for months but did not alert local health departments. He said the lack of testing options could create a panic.

DHHR's laboratory office told local health officials it had run out of kits in an Oct. 17 letter.

"With our deepest apologies to our customers, the WV Office of Laboratory Services is temporarily ceasing HCV testing," the letter said, using the acronym for "hepatitis C virus."

The letter is unsigned. The head of the laboratory and a DHHR spokeswoman did not return messages Monday seeking comment.

The letter does not make clear what local health officials are supposed to do in the meantime, particularly if there is a suspected outbreak.

"My instinct is if we were unable to test for that, we would seek outside sources, which would most likely be CDC," Jordan said, referring to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state's laboratory services office blamed purchasing problems. The letter said officials had been trying to contract for new test kits for the past two years,  "but this process has been met with many obstacles."   

"The HCV kit contract previously in place expired earlier this year," the letter said. "The Office of Laboratory Services had planned for this well in advance but requests submitted to renew the HCV contract were rejected by various levels of purchasing thus resulting in disruption of HCV services."

State documents show two bids to buy new kits were scrapped this year because of problems with the bids the state received.

On Feb. 23, the head of the state's lab, Dr. Andrea Labik, wrote to Jo Bess, a DHHR buyer.

Labik told Bess only California-based Bio-Rad had bid on a statewide contract for testing supplies, including kits to test for HIV and several forms of hepatitis. Bio-Rad held the most recent statewide laboratory supply contract.

"This was the only bid received and they do not meet all the specifications and requirements," Labik wrote.

She asked for the bidding process to be canceled and for the state to try again. The contract is worth about $140,000 a year.

It was re-bid starting in late April.

There were problems the second time around, too.

Neither Bio-Rad nor Illinois-based Abbot Diagnostics met the specifications, according to a June 19 letter from Dondeena McGraw to Bess. Namely, bid documents show Abbot didn't meet all the technical specifics and Bio-Rad would not accept the state's terms and conditions.

At one point in early June, shortly before the second bid had to be scrapped, Bess suggested the state do a no-bid contract to allow Bio-Rad to keep doing business with the state.

"Don't know if that will fly, but we can sure try," Bess wrote to other purchasing officials.

There were about 2,000 newly diagnosed cases of hepatitis C in West Virginia in 2010, according to preliminary data from the state Bureau of Public Health.  

The disease can be sexually transmitted and can be caught through drug injection. It's usually a silent disease with no symptoms at first for most people, but eventually it can cause liver disease and cancer.

Contact writer Ry Rivard at ry.rivard@dailymail.com or 304-348-1796. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryrivard.


Print

User Comments