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Costly delays in newborn-blood screenings

Every child born in North Carolina and across the nation must legally submit to a blood screening that tests for a number of genetic problems and diseases that can be effectively treated if they are caught early. The newborn-screening tests were developed five decades ago and benefit or even save the lives of more than 12,000 infants annually. Quick testing can keep families from spending millions of dollars in medical expenses.

The blood sample should be transported to the lab within 24-48 hours, but sometimes that doesn't happen. Significant delays at hundreds of medical facilities in the U.S. in 2012 meant serious and debilitating issues or even death for some children. In many cases, if those diagnosed with problems had been identified sooner, the outcome might have been much better.

In a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that included more than 30 states, a period of five days was considered late for blood samples to arrive to be tested. Some states refused to participate, but of those that did provide data, Arizona was the worst, with an average of 16.65 percent of the tests arriving late to the testing labs. Iowa was the best, with .18 percent.

Few mandates are made on a national level, and procedures vary from state to state, sources say. After the release of the study, at least two states, Missouri and Kansas, made a new effort to speed up the sending of samples. An administrator with a Missouri healthcare organization said that he was glad the issue came to the surface so that the problem could be resolved.

Hospital negligence could mean that a newborn screening isn't performed in a timely fashion. A personal injury attorney might be able to help clients seek financial compensation if the delay has life-changing consequences.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Delays in blood testing threaten the lives of babies", Ellen Gabler and Eric Adler, December 25, 2013

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