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Investigations Show Required Blood Tests Slow, Others Dangerously Flawed

The blood of a two week-old infant is collected for a Phenylketonuria, or PKU, screening Dec. 12 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. (Wikimedia Commons/U.S Air Force photo/Staff Sgt Eric T. Sheler)
The blood of a two week-old infant is collected for a Phenylketonuria, or PKU, screening Dec. 12 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. (Wikimedia Commons/U.S Air Force photo/Staff Sgt Eric T. Sheler)

Every newborn in the country is required to submit to a routine heel-stick blood test, which is supposed to be sent to a state lab, analyzed and reported to families and physicians within 24 hours. The tests are so important the the Centers for Disease Control calls them “one of the nation’s most successful public health programs,” in how they can detect diseases that could otherwise cause severe developmental disabilities, illness or death. But what happens when the results are not delivered within the required time frame?

Investigative reporter Ellen Gabler explored that question in her Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series “Deadly Delays” in 2013. Her shocking findings sparked nearly instant changes in how some hospitals and states handle their testing. That series led Gabler to delve more deeply into all routine blood testing and was the impetus for a second investigative series titled “Hidden Errors.”

Gabler joins Here & Now’s Peter O’Dowd to discuss her work and the changes that have been made since her articles appeared.

Guest

  • Ellen Gabler, investigative reporter and assistant editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She tweets @egabler.

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