Quest Was Public Knowledge, Professional Ignorance No Excuse!

by Robert A. Duke

It was public knowledge on Nov. 9, 2016,* that PeaceHealth was negotiating the sale of its medical labs, but the deal, which closed on Feb. 15, 2017, surprised Bellingham’s Family Care Network (FCN).

Responding to my July 10, 2017, letter concerning FCN’s exclusion from the new Quest medical labs services, FCN President Dr. Marcy G. Hipskind told me her agency knew nothing of the transaction until after the fact.

As an FCN patient, I was relieved to learn FCN had not colluded in this shameful deal, but I was appalled at Dr. Hipskind’s admission of FCN’s ignorance of the pending transaction.

I mailed copies of my critical July 2017 Whatcom Watch article about Quest to FCN administrators Brian Ecker and Michele Anderson, but they gave no formal response. Anderson, however, contacted Whatcom Watch but didn’t take the Watch editor’s return phone call.

My July 27, 2017, letter to Dr. James Hopper, chief FCN medical officer, asking about issues at FCN was never answered.

My complaint to Washington State’s Attorney General’s office about Quest’s transaction and its impact on non-PeaceHealth patients produced no response or information.

What happened? PeaceHealth sold its laboratory services to Quest Diagnostics of New Jersey for an estimated $50 million after posting a $115.6 million deficit in fiscal 2016. As a consequence, healthcare in Skagit and Whatcom counties was set back “15 to 20 years,” according to a FCN source.

In our small healthcare community, serviced by PeaceHealth, FCN and a handful of clinics, and practices and hospitals scattered from Oregon to Alaska, how could such an impactful deal go unnoticed? FCN patients are as reliant on FCN managers and administrators for quality healthcare as they are reliant on doctors, nurses and technicians. Considering that consequences of this deal will adversely affect FCN patients indefinitely, it is no small matter that FCN management was unaware of the transaction as it moved to fruition.

*The Lund Report, a Portland-based on-line healthcare news website at, reported the rumored sale of PeaceHealth labs and verified its consummation on at least three occasions spanning three months:

• Nov. 9, 2016, PeaceHealth Labs May Be on the Market
• Feb. 8, 2017, PeaceHealth Labs to be Acquired by Quest Diagnostics
• Feb. 10, 2017, Sale of PeaceHealth Labs to Quest Diagnostics Imminent