Thompson seeking options to keep lab operating

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2008

State Health Officer Dr. Ed Thompson is considering other options after lawmakers ended their special session without passing legislation designed to maintain the public health lab’s certification.

Thompson, in a telephone interview on Monday, criticized Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, who made a procedural motion that kept a Senate bill from being considered in the House.

“This problem now exists because of the actions of one senator,” Thompson said. “The fact is that the people of the state have been placed in jeopardy and there is no excuse for that.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has told the state Department of Health it will revoke its certification for violating federal protocol for lab tests.

The lab helps doctors diagnose diseases across Mississippi, including tuberculosis and West Nile virus. Thompson said an error was made in how a specimen was handled, but no patient was ever at risk.

To get around the revocation, Thompson had asked lawmakers to put the health lab into state statute, creating another entity that could apply for certification. The House and Senate each passed its own bill. However, the lab legislation died when lawmakers adjourned without agreeing on a single version.

Baria said he held the legislation on a motion to reconsider because he wanted to give the House time to consider a Medicaid bill. He said he thought the special session would continue on Tuesday, and the lab bill would pass then. However, House leaders didn’t have enough votes to bring the Medicaid bill up for debate so the chamber adjourned.

The state Department of Health has until Aug. 25 to decide whether to appeal to CMS. The appeal process could last until the regular session begins in January, he said.

Thompson said the other option would be to ask Gov. Haley Barbour to call another special session to deal with the lab issue at a cost of about $35,000 to taxpayers.