More hospitals delivering newborn blood samples quicker to Arkansas health lab

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — An increasing number of Arkansas hospitals are cutting the time it takes to deliver baby blood samples for testing in Little Rock, according to state health department officials.

About 50 percent of newborn samples taken at hospitals from July through September arrived at the agency's laboratory within 48 hours after collection, said Leslie Himstedt, the laboratory's manager.

About 13 percent of samples were delivered within that frame in the fiscal year that ended June 2013, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1vOntRv ) reported.

The lab tests the samples for 28 genetic disorders. Health officials say an early diagnosis can help save a baby's life or prevent permanent health damage.

"We're making great progress, but we're not stopping there," said Alan Mease of the department's Center for Health Advancement. "We want to continue to improve."

No members of the public appeared at a public hearing Wednesday to comment on a proposed rule change for speeding up delivery times.

The proposal calls for requiring hospitals to submit blood samples to the laboratory within one business day after they are taken. Under current rules, hospitals can wait up to 48 hours.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in November 2013 that thousands of samples nationwide had arrived at labs five or more days after they were collected.

The newspaper reported that one baby's sample in Arkansas wasn't tested until more than three weeks after he was born in Paragould. The baby was diagnosed later with galactosemia, a disorder that prevented his body from digesting a sugar found in breast milk and traditional formula.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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