On Tuesday the subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee heard testimony indicating that persistent equipment problems, lack of communication between lab inspection agencies, and whistle-blower complaints that were ignored were to blame for suspect HIV and hepatitis test results issued by Maryland General Hospital. The hospital's lab sent nearly 460 questionable results to patients. Those testifying included the maker of the equipment used in the tests, the head of an accrediting agency that gave the lab a top rating even as the bad results were being produced, and a former hospital employee who alerted the state to the problems.
Maryland health secretary Nelson Sabatini said the four different organizations responsible for lab oversight rarely share information and have different approaches to inspection and enforcement. In Maryland General's case, all "dropped the ball," Sabatini said.
According to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who organized the session, the consensus is that changes may be needed as to how hospital labs are monitored to ensure that more information is shared among agencies. In addition, the testing machines--about 170 of which are in use nationwide--need more scrutiny, he said. "The Maryland General Hospital situation is just the tip of the iceberg that has national implications," Cummings said.
More than 2,000 patients were retested as a result of the problems, and 99.6% of the HIV tests were correct, said Edmond Notebaert, president of the university medical system. Maryland General's president and two top lab officials were fired because of the problems. (AP)