What Government is Governing?

by Robert Duke

Quest lab debacle raises question: If not to protect citizens from harm by fellow citizens, natural disasters or business interests, what is government for? In particular, what are the state’s attorney general’s office and the health department’s purpose if not to prevent harm or right wrongs?

On July 20, 2017, I informed Washington’s attorney general (AG), Bob Ferguson, that PeaceHealth of Washington had sold its medical labs to Quest Diagnostics of New Jersey. This deal severed digital sharing of lab data between PeaceHealth and other clinics and practices. Instead of same day availability my lab data, for example, now required six days to reach me.

Independent clinics were forced to hurriedly open separate labs. Family Care Network’s (FCN) president, Dr. Marcy G Hipskind, said that FCN knew nothing of this transaction until after the fact. One physician said this deal set back healthcare in Whatcom and Skagit counties “15 to 20 years.”

Outraged as both an FCN patient and healthcare journalist, I requested public records about the transaction in the hope of challenging it by learning the names of the participating executives.

I received an August 16, 2017, dated letter from the AG’s office with 14 pages attached in response to my public records request. Ostensibly, these pages were the sum of public information available to the AG about the PeaceHealth/Quest lab sale.

The 14 pages were copies of my complaint information I had provided to the AG.
Bad enough that the only information the AG had was information I provided, but the AG’s office somehow construed that what I sent them was what I was seeking, as quoted here from the AG’s letter:

This letter is to acknowledge and conclude your public records request dated and received on August 10, 2017 for the following documents:

Details, including names of executives representing Peace Health [sic] and quest [sic] Diagnostics of New Jersey, USA, who transacted the sale of Peace Health [sic] medical laboratories to purchaser Quest Diagnostics in 2017.

To read more on this issue see “Lab Sale Sells Out Patients, Burdens Caregivers” in the July  2017 issue of Whatcom Watch.