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Seton lab changes cause concern

Hours cut at Coastside facility

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Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012 10:23 am

Local physicians are voicing concerns about emergency health care on the coast after receiving reports of changes in laboratory services at Seton Medical Center Coastside in Moss Beach.

A spokesman for the Daly City-based hospital said that laboratory hours have been reduced following a census of the need on the coast. Spokesman Kevin Andrus said he couldn’t comment on the details of any changes other than to say that some tests that had previously been completed on the coast may now be sent to Daly City.

That worries some health professionals on the coast.

“Their outpatient hours have been reduced, so the patients I send over there for tests only have a two-hour window on each day during the week,” said Dr. Lorraine Page.

Beginning this month, patients not being treated at the hospital can visit the lab between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. on weekdays. Previously, Page said she could send her patients to the lab at Seton Coastside until 5 p.m.

Page, who owns a family practice in Half Moon Bay, was especially worried about the negative effect any major changes in Seton’s laboratory services will have on the coast’s only urgent care facility. Contrary to Andrus’ assertion, she said she was told by a source affiliated with the medical facility that most lab tests will no longer be processed at Seton Coastside and the samples drawn there will now be transported to the Daly City hub. Health professionals say the hospital always sent some tests to Daly City but that the practice is now more regular.

“The turnaround time for tests in the ER is crucial because clinical decisions need to be made as soon as possible,” said Dr. Grant Weiss, a Coastsider and former director of Emergency Care at Seton Coastside.

According to Weiss, most patients who required emergency care at Seton Coastside did not need serious lab work. However, he was more concerned about the small percentage of people who would require more serious help.

“Most ER patients either suffer a fall, do something stupid to injure themselves, or drink too much. But the ones that come in with severe chest and abdominal pain require tests that have to be conducted as soon as possible so we can treat the patient accordingly,” he said.

Weiss estimated the turnaround time for test results processed in Daly City to be three hours or more while in-house tests could be ready in 20 minutes because the lab scientist on call usually lived nearby.

Weiss said he also heard that the Seton Coastside facility had trained its doctors and nurses to conduct simple point-of-care tests capable of taking complete blood count and electrolyte results.

“This raises some important issues regarding quality control,” he said. Weiss also expressed concerns about the additional workload on hospital staff whose first priority should be patient care — not lab tests.

Officials at Seton Medical Center in Daly City maintain that there have been no major changes in laboratory services at their Coastside facility.

“We have not closed down the lab at Seton Coastside,” Andrus said.

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