Health Department receiving 87 percent of newborn blood tests late

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - When a baby is born in Arkansas, a sample of blood is sent to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to analyze for 28 rare disorders.

Those samples should reach the lab within 48 hours, according to the health department, but only about 13 percent actually make it there that fast.

All of the conditions are considered rare, but last year, an average of 75 babies in Arkansas had one.

"Treatment is dependent on the outcome very specifically, so the timing of the analysis and the result will be very critical for treating baby," said Jennifer Hunt, the Pathology Chair of UAMS.

So why are only 13 percent making it to the lab on time? The 43 hospitals in the state that deliver babies have different methods of getting the samples delivered for testing, according to ADH.

"Sometimes, hospitals will batch samples and hold onto them and not mail them in a timely fashion or not get them on their courier in a timely fashion," said Patricia Scott of the Arkansas Department of Health.

Just down the road from the health department, UAMS couriers their results right to the lab's door.

"We have a dedicated courier that takes these tests over once a day at least," Hunt said.

Half the tests in Arkansas are hand delivered, but many of the other tests are put in the mail. Hospitals are required to mail tests within 48 hours. It could be days before the test even get to the lab. That's something the health department is working to change.

"Right now, with our newborn screening law, it says they must be submitted within 48 hours. We'd like to see a higher standard. We'd like to see them arrive within 48 hours," Scott said.

ADH has their own courier system which reaches the lab in Little Rock each day, so officials insist that even rural hospitals shouldn't be late. All the hospital must do is send the tests over to their local health unit. There are more than a 100 local offices all over the state.

Even though a lot of tests aren't arriving quickly enough, the lab says they are still turning them around within five days.

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