Legislature(1997 - 1998)

01/31/1997 09:00 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  SB  51 APPROVE CENTRALIZED PUBLIC HEALTH LAB                                
   CHAIRMAN WILKEN  announced that  SB 51  would be the next order of         
 business.  The committee recessed at 9:58 a.m., awaiting the                  
 arrival of Senator Kelly.  The committee was called to order at               
 9:59 a.m.                                                                     
 Number 482                                                                    
  SENATOR KELLY , Prime Sponsor of SB 51, informed the committee that          
 last year this bill passed the House, came to the Senate.  There              
 was a great deal of support in the Senate, but the bill was unable            
 to get to third reading on the final day of session and therefore,            
 the bill died.  Senator Kelly believed that in the zeal to close              
 the fiscal gap, capital facilities throughout Alaska are being                
 overlooked.  In spite of the fiscal gap, Alaska will have to work             
 something out within the long-range strategy in order to invest               
 more money in capital projects.  Senator Kelly said that SB 51 is             
 a good first step and indicated that he is working on another plan.           
  CHAIRMAN WILKEN  noted that Forrest Browne from the Department of            
 Revenue was present in order to answer questions as well as Tom               
 Lane from the Division of Administration in DHSS.                             
 Number 453                                                                    
  DR. GREG HAYES , Chief of the Section of Public Health Laboratories          
 in DHSS, informed the committee that he had been in Alaska for                
 three years.  Prior to that, Dr. Hayes was the Director of the                
 Public Health Laboratories for Indiana.  Dr. Hayes discussed his              
 education in this field.  The new consolidated Public Health                  
 Laboratory facility addressed in SB 51 would be located in                    
 Anchorage.  The new facility would include the functions of the               
 Anchorage and Juneau Public Health Laboratories and the Medical               
 Examiner's Laboratory.  Design and construction costs would be paid           
 through debt financing through the sale of certificates of                    
 participation for a lease purchase of the facility.                           
 The services of the State Public Health Laboratory are directed               
 towards prevention and control of disease in the community which              
 differs from clinical laboratories focusing on individual care.               
 The Public Health Laboratory focuses on communicable disease                  
 testing and work in partnership with the Centers for Disease                  
 Control and private laboratories in Alaska.  The Public Health                
 Laboratory fulfills an assessment, policy development and assurance           
 role.  Advanced testing for infectious agents not routinely                   
 performed in the private sector are performed by the Public Health            
 Laboratory.  Data is constantly being gathered for targeted disease           
 control efforts.  In the event of an epidemic, the Public Health              
 Laboratory is able to apply state of the art technology for rapid             
 testing of large numbers of specimens.  Furthermore, the Public               
 Health Laboratory specializes in disease surveillance and the                 
 recognition of new and reemerging diseases.                                   
 Number 425                                                                    
 Dr. Hayes reviewed some examples of how the Public Health                     
 Laboratory has benefited Alaskans.  The State Laboratory provides             
 essential services for disease surveillance, control, and                     
 prevention as well as recognition of new and emerging diseases.               
 Alaska's Public Health Laboratory is an essential component of the            
 state and national public health system.  Moreover, the State                 
 Public Health Laboratory's mission is to provide scientific and               
 technical information for disease prevention and is Alaska's first            
 line of defense for recognizing and controlling the spread of                 
 communicable diseases.  Dr. Hayes reviewed the core functions of              
 the Public Health Laboratory which are very different from the role           
 of a private clinical laboratory.                                             
 Dr. Hayes pointed out that even the most ardent supporters of                 
 governmental privatization are reluctant to argue for privatizing             
 the public health function.  All 50 states and U.S. territories               
 have public health laboratories of which none are privatized.  Dr.            
 Hayes discussed the criteria commonly used by state governments in            
 order to determine whether privatization is appropriate or not.               
 None of the criteria fit the Public Health Laboratory.  He noted              
 that if testing were privatized, multiple contracts would be                  
 necessary since no one private laboratory performs all types of               
 testing currently performed at the State Public Health Laboratory.            
 Furthermore, for many tests there are no private laboratories that            
 perform the test.  The few tests that a private laboratory could              
 perform would merely be added to its current work load being sent             
 out of state.                                                                 
 Number 347                                                                    
 Dr. Hayes explained why a new facility is necessary.  Two of the              
 facilities are in disrepair with mechanical and structural                    
 inadequacies for conducting laboratory testing.  The laboratories             
 are in leased space with poor facility layouts and space                      
 limitations for future growth.  The Juneau and Anchorage facilities           
 have major health and safety concerns such as inadequate                      
 ventilation systems for working with infectious organisms.  The               
 Juneau and Anchorage facilities also have inadequate wiring.  Dr.             
 Hayes discussed specific examples of these problems.  Further, the            
 State Medical Examiner needs to find a permanent home.  Currently,            
 the Medical Examiner resides in the Department of Public Safety's             
 Crime Detection Laboratory.  The Crime Laboratory needs this space            
 in order to develop a much needed DNA analysis laboratory.                    
 Dr. Hayes stated that construction of a new facility would save the           
 state money.  An unrecoverable investment would be necessary to               
 repair the current facilities, and consultants say that the                   
 facilities could not be brought up to code.  A new facility would             
 maintain an essential public health service more cheaply and more             
 efficiently.  The duplication of activities at multiple locations             
 would not be necessary.  Dr. Hayes stated that a new facility would           
 solve the following problems:  the fragmentation of services,                 
 leased and temporary space, current facilities ill design for                 
 current operations, a significant capital investment to fix current           
 facilities although the facilities would not meet code, and the               
 state does not need nor can it afford four separate facilities.               
 Dr. Hayes noted that there have been 14 separate studies since 1985           
 regarding how to correct problems and position the state                      
 laboratories for the future.  The conclusion of these studies                 
 strongly support the construction of a new facility.  In the first            
 year of occupancy, a new facility would save the state $293,000 and           
 would save DHSS approximately $218,000 in personnel and lease                 
 costs.  Further, the Department of Administration would save                  
 $75,000 in lease costs.  The cost of the new facility is estimated            
 to be $18,440,000 with annual payments of $2,420,000 for 10 years             
 with a total estimated debt of $24,130,000.  The costs from last              
 year's proposal have been adjusted for inflation and the                      
 assumptions of the coroner's responsibilities by the Medical                  
 Examiner's Program.                                                           
 With regard to the Medical Examiner, it is imperative that the                
 Medical Examiner Laboratory be near Public Safety's Crime Detection           
 Laboratory due to their close interaction and cooperation.  Dr.               
 Hayes presented a map depicting the most desirable sites for this             
 project.  In conclusion, Dr. Hayes requested the committee's                  
 support of this projects.                                                     
 Number 273                                                                    
  SENATOR ELLIS  asked if the new facility would be able to                    
 accommodate the functions of the Fairbanks laboratory at some point           
 in the future.   DR. HAYES  said that would be a new project.  Funds          
 were cut from last year's bill for a centralized laboratory, so               
 Fairbanks was not included in the project.                                    
  SENATOR ELLIS  asked if Alaska's public health mission made more             
 sense if the Fairbanks laboratory were consolidated with the                  
 facility in Anchorage.  Is that the most ideal situation?   DR.               
 HAYES  said that would be a matter of opinion.  From his perspective          
 in last year's bill, a centralized option was in the best interest            
 of the state.  However, that has changed through the political                
  SENATOR ELLIS  inquired as to if this project would include the              
 possibility of an addition for future needs.   DR. HAYES  explained           
 that when the meeting with the architects occurs, there is a                  
 certain footage included for the growth in any new building.  If              
 additional space for the future can be had, it will be planned in             
 the building.  In response to Senator Ellis, Dr. Hayes believed               
 that there is a yearly lease arrangement for the Fairbanks                    
 laboratory.   TOM LANE  interjected that the lease is from the                
 University and there is no concern for the future.   DR. HAYES  noted         
 that the Juneau Laboratory is on a monthly lease.                             
  DR. MICHAEL PROPST , the State Medical Examiner, said that he was            
 present to answer questions.                                                  
 Number 231                                                                    
  MARILYN GEORGE  said that Dr. Hayes did not seem to take into                
 consideration the weather in Alaska.  The ability to send the tests           
 to Juneau is important.  Often, the planes do not get in.  The                
 Juneau Laboratory does the microbiology, and often time is of the             
 essence with the results.  Ms. George believed that the Juneau                
 Laboratory should not be closed.  She also mentioned the job                  
 displacement created by the closure of the Juneau Laboratory.                 
  CHAIRMAN WILKEN  asked if anyone else wanted to testify.  Hearing            
 none, he announced that a vote on SB 51 would taken on Monday.                
  SENATOR GREEN  pointed out that SB 51 does not include a location.           
 She agreed to talk with Senator Kelly regarding this issue.                   
  SENATOR KELLY  reiterated the importance to place the facility               
 adjacent to the Crime Laboratory as explained by Dr. Hayes.                   
  SENATOR GREEN  thought this would be a great facility to be located          
 in the Mat-Su.                                                                

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