Letter: Concerns about Cape Cod Healthcare's Proposal to Outsource Outreach Lab Services

from Nikko B. Mendoza, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

"Letter to the Editor"

Healthcare workers with 1199SEIU are raising concerns about Cape Cod Healthcare’s (CCHC) proposal to outsource its outreach laboratory services to Quest Diagnostics.

In a letter to the Health Policy Commission, 1199SEIU – the state’s largest and fastest growing healthcare union – outlines a series of health, patient safety and economic concerns about the sale of CCHC’s outreach laboratory services. Approximately 1,700 1199SEIU members work at CCHC.

“It’s extremely troubling that Cape Cod Healthcare is willing to slash vital jobs and potentially jeopardize patient safety by outsourcing laboratory services to a company like Quest Diagnostics,” said Jerry Fishbein, Vice President of Health Systems at 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “CCHC has many other options to reduce costs, save jobs and protect patient care, yet management wants to outsource these critical services to a laboratory off-Cape and to a company with questionable business practices and unclear certification standards.”

Healthcare workers call the potential sale to Quest Diagnostics “alarming,” and question why CCHC would consider outsourcing its laboratory services to a company that has paid millions of dollars to settle allegations of fraud, kickbacks and double-billing in states across the country. Quest is also currently defending a suit in Massachusetts after a woman suffered nerve damage from an alleged botched blood draw by a Quest staffer.

Outsourcing laboratory services will result in more than fifty layoffs at CCHC, including full and part-time customer service techs, medical technologists and medical lab technicians at Cape Cod and Falmouth Hospitals.

While CCHC has billed the sale of laboratory services to Quest as a cost-saving move, prices for lab testing at physician offices were often the same or less than Quest’s prices for many common tests. The letter criticizes CCHC for failing to explore alternatives that would “save costs but also keep these essential testing services within the CCHC system.”

“Our patients depend on laboratory professionals like us to provide thorough, accurate and timely results that help dispute or support their diagnoses,” said Cynthia Lockwood, a Medical Technologist at Cape Cod Hospital. “Cape Cod Healthcare’s attempt to save money on laboratory tests that are crucial to identifying and treating disease is short-sighted. We demand clarity and transparency from CCHC about the broad implications this proposal will have on our patients and our community.”

The letter also requests that the Health Policy Commission seek more information from Quest Diagnostics and CCHC on four key areas. This includes answers as to why CCHC physician office testing is not an acceptable alternative, how Quest Diagnostics plans to ensure the proper storage of lab specimens during long distance travel, and whether Quest will be held to the same four-hour processing standard currently expected by physicians and patients of CCHC. In addition, healthcare workers want to know whether Quest will require lab workers to be certified or eligible to be certified by the American Society for Clinical Pathology – certifications currently required for lab workers at Cape Cod and Falmouth Hospitals.

“The residents of Cape Cod deserve access to high quality and affordable healthcare, and it’s unclear how the sale of its laboratory services to Quest Diagnostics achieves either of those objectives,” added Fishbein. “It’s not too late to rethink this poorly-conceived proposal, and we urge the Health Policy Commission to give this sale additional scrutiny – particularly given the potential consequences for healthcare workers and patient safety.”

Nikko B. Mendoza | Communications Director

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East | Massachusetts Division

108 Myrtle Street, Suite 400 | Quincy, MA 02171

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