Private Lab COVID testing and Medical Supplies in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

PBS posted an excellent article yesterday relating that:

“Virginia (Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM)) is in the process of finalizing contracts with private labs to expand COVID-19 testing in Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam has said that widespread testing of at least 10,000 people per day is key to reopening the government. State officials claim Virginia is doing enough testing to partially reopen this Friday, although new studies suggest otherwise. Supply shortages have also hindered expanded testing.”

“In the process of finalizing” – take that however you will. No word on when the process started. Not sure what remains in the negotiations, since the labs are offering the test kits and the processing of those kits at the price that Medicare will reimburse. “I believe [the $100 per test rate] seemed to be about the going rate when we talked to the other companies, said VDEM’s Stern.”

Meanwhile, supplies required for the safe practice of medicine and for testing remain in short supply for front line practitioners other than hospitals.

We have discussed in this space for at least six weeks that Virginia needs to “create a distribution pipeline for PPEs for independent physicians in our community. We cannot risk a shortage of physicians, nurses and ancillary providers due to lack of protection.” – Soheila Rostomi, MD, President, Medical Society of Northern Virginia Board of Directors quoted March 28.

A Northern Virginia pediatrician quoted in yesterday’s NPR article related that she is still short of supplies of both swabs and PPE. No word from the Commonwealth on when more might be on the way.

As we have written before, all states had plans in place since 2012 funded and guided by the federal government that predicted the current crisis in considerable detail with considerable accuracy. Each recognized that pandemic response was to be locally executed, state managed and federally supported.

The plans required each state to procure stockpiles of equipment like ventilators and supplies like PPE to be used when a pandemic arrived. (That is the plan VDH removed from its website). It appears no state adequately funded its stockpiles. Virginia did not fund one at all. The federal stockpile covered the actual requirements for ventilators even without state stockpiles. Not so for supplies.

Even without the stockpiles they committed to procure, some states, localities and individual institutions got to work early to deal with the pandemic. Others lagged. Welcome to democracy.

It will be very interesting to see if Virginia funds a pandemic stockpile in its next budget. Mark me down for an early bet that it won’t.