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Thumbs down: Agency was too slow to avoid testing delay

Oct. 23, 2012 @ 10:35 PM

The state of West Virginia has encountered another snag in making a purchase.

Questions have been raised about the state buying high-priced computer routers as part of a broadband expansion project and awarding a marketing contract for the Department of Health and Human Resources to the highest bidder.

Both of those cases had to do with goods and services that were purchased. The latest problem has to do with the state being unable to complete a purchase in a timely fashion.

The result is that DHHR's Office of Laboratory Services informed county health departments last week that it had used up all of the kits for testing West Virginians for hepatitis C, according to a report by the Charleston Daily Mail. County health departments draw blood and send samples to the state to be analyzed, but without the kits the tests can't be performed.

The state office estimates it needs about 7,700 hepatitis C tests a year. In 2010, there were about 2,000 new cases in West Virginia.

Hepatitis C, which can cause liver disease and cancer, is transmitted through sexual contact and drug injection. Having a gap in this service can increase the odds that someone may have the disease and pass it to others.

The sad part is that the letter sent to county health departments said the state office had planned well ahead to keep supplies intact. Unfortunately, it twice sought bids -- the last time in April -- and ran into problems both times.

On Tuesday, DHHR officials said they were able to make an emergency purchase of more kits so that tests can now be completed, although it did not immediately tell county departments.

Eight months would seem long enough to get this task done without leaving county health departments -- and the people who rely on them -- in the lurch.

We hope the state won't allow a similar gap in test supplies won't occur in the future.

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