SNN Special Report: Laboratories Struggle to Dig Out After Perfect Storm

SNN Special Report: Laboratories Struggle to Dig Out After Perfect Storm

By Jennifer Gladstone

If you’ve noticed the turnaround time for your drug testing is a bit slower than usual, you are right, and you are not alone. This slow-down is a national problem. Between Covid, natural disasters, and some new government requirements, the labs processing employer drug tests have been hit with a perfect storm.

“When COVID came to be, a lot of the labs diverted a lot of their resources to their staffing, working on COVID testing, which makes sense,” says EBI VP of Drug Testing, Occupational Healthcare and Wellness Program, Heather Horn.  “And then as COVID went on, they started to maybe lose some staff here and there, or people were just sick and were not at the labs. And then as we moved forward through time in this year, August, there was a mandate by the Department of Transportation that new chain of custody forms had to be provided to drivers. And that’s where it really started to become apparent that not only was there turnaround time issues but there was the supply issues and the distribution issues that were kind of used to seeing in grocery stores now.”

Then, on top of everything else, came Hurricane Ida. As it battered New Orleans, it took out an Abbott Laboratories facility.

“So, their laboratory was pretty much heavily damaged in the storm, and there were, I mean, there were specimens sitting on tarmacs that couldn’t be delivered to the lab. If they did get to the lab, there was no one to test. There was no power at the lab. So that kind of caused a whole quagmire because that wasn’t really made apparent to the public for about a week.”

There are four main labs that process the majority of employer drug tests – Abbott, LabCorp, Quest, and CRL. While one closed lab might not seem like a big deal, it is. These companies have dozens of facilities across the country, but employer drug testing – especially urine testing – is only processed in a small handful of them. The three other labs jumped in to help but doing so just caused their backlogs to grow.

This perfect storm is causing turnaround time delays for employers all over the county. It’s not huge – maybe just a day longer than usual – but with companies needing to hire ASAP, any delay is frustrating.

The labs have, however, been completely transparent about what they’ve been dealing with and how they are gearing up for the future.

Horn has been in touch with all of the labs and says they are all investing in New instrumentation to support the screening and processing the throughput in the capacity. “They’re all hiring additional staff and they’re all adding additional shifts to do what they can to get caught up and make sure they stay that way. But it really just was again the perfect storm, a quagmire of circumstances that I’m not really sure that anybody could account for.”

But sometimes it takes a mess like this to make dramatic improvements, and Heather says she believes the results will be better for everyone. Coming up in part two of our interview, we will tell you a way your company might be able to alleviate some of the burden at the labs while making Covid testing easier for your team. That’s coming up next time.

About the Author

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

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