The Times reported Wednesday that WellSpan affiliated hospitals in Adams and York counties have either discontinued conducting blood alcohol content (BAC) tests for police, or will be discontinuing.

The discontinuance of the service provided by Gettysburg Hospital to Adams County law enforcement will necessitate that police forces seek BAC testing services elsewhere.

In the case of Carroll Valley Borough Police Department, police Chief Richard L. Hileman II has approached a laboratory in Willow Grove, Pa., – more than 113 miles away – to conduct BAC testing for the township police.

Police said Gettysburg Hospital will continue to draw the blood samples, but will not test them.  The blood would be placed in test kits to enable police to send the sample to another laboratory of their choice, most likely by Fed-Ex.

William Lavery, manager, WellSpan Office of Health Public Relations & Communication at Gettysburg Hospital, confirmed Wednesday that the testing service was being discontinued at the hospital, but that the facility will continue to draw the blood.

Lavery stated there were two fundamental reasons for the discontinuation of the service, the first concerning accreditation of the hospital’s laboratory and the second relating to increased demands on the laboratory.

Regarding accreditation, he said, “In our case, the hospital laboratory is unable to meet a new testing regulation introduced by the College of American Pathologists.  They generate standards and they are our primary accreditation agency.”

“If we were to lose accreditation by not adhering to their regulations, we’d really jeopardize the lab’s primary role of providing health care to our patients,” Lavery said.

In addition, the legal system, particularly DUI defense attorneys, are demanding more and more from laboratories that conduct BAC testing.

This is causing an increasing drain on the hospital’s resources.

“It’s (legal demands) becoming an increasing impact on our lab resources…trying to meet the legal requirements that these cases (generate),” he said.

“More and more,” Lavery stated,  DUI defense attorneys subject the hospital lab’s to strenuous (expectations), which include responding to subpoenas that go beyond the hospital’s ability to respond to them.

“Attorneys are mandating that a clinical (hospital) lab be able to demonstrate forensic abilities, to respond to documents, provide staff competency documentation…those are things a forensic lab is more equipped to handle,” he stated. 

The load and responsibility has caused an “increased demand on our resources…A clinical (hospital) lab may not be able to operate (the same level of service) as a forensic lab,” Lavery stated, pointing out that what is being asked of the hospital’s clinical laboratory are things that a forensic lab deals with routinely.

Lavery noted that the transition, of weaning local state and local law enforcement away from using hospital testing services, “has been talked about the last couple of years.”

The majority of the hospitals in the area (south central Pa.), he noted, have already ceased DUI testing, according to the communications manager.  “A lot of area hospitals made that decision a couple of years ago.”

Lavery said that the hospital was committed to helping area law enforcement make the transition from being dependent on the hospital for testing to seeking out forensic laboratories.

“We’re committed to working with all local law enforcement so we can make the new process work as efficiently as possible,” he said.

Rick Fulton may be contacted at rfulton@gburgtimes.com.

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