Dept. of Health to outsource health lab management
Mike Seals - December 24, 2020 10:09 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Department of Health will outsource management of the state’s public health lab, a move many saw problematic to do so during a pandemic.
The state made a contract with Prairie One Solutions, a newly formed subsidiary of the Oklahoma State University Research Foundation, to oversee the public health lab and the future Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence — coinciding so the lab and the pandemic center can be housed together.
Under the new contract, the state’s public health lab will be moved from the capital to Stillwater, a smaller city more than 60 miles (96.56 kilometers) away.
The move, initially announced in October, is unlikely to be completed by the end of the year as state leaders originally thought, according to The Oklahoman.
State Department of Health Deputy Commissioner Travis Kirkpatrick said he expects it to be complete in the first quarter of 2021.
“Moving 65 people in a public health lab in the middle of a pandemic has been a lot more problematic than we would have initially thought,” he said.
State health officials anticipate moving the public health lab will result in some cost savings through staff attrition and by using the federal CARES Act funds to purchase, instead of rent, new lab equipment.
According to a news release, the agreement will add expertise to the public health lab staff that does not currently exist. Prairie One will also bring on leadership with expertise in laboratory and clinical medicine to work with existing lab staff.
“We are delighted that our pursuit of collaboration between Oklahoma’s public health, private and academic sectors begins with this partnership with OSDH,” Prairie One President Kenneth Sewell said in a statement. “Prairie One Solutions will create pathways for collaboration with university scientists around the state and region, and with corporate (research and development)/technology partners.”
The State Department of Health will continue to have oversight of the lab and pandemic center.