Props, peeps, & pops

June 1, 2010


y poking fun at new technology has become a sore point among my younger tech-savvy relatives. Instead of behaving like a “nab,” meet my new “addi-paddi.”

On May 2, MLO's editorial team landed in Vegas for CLMA's ThinkLab'10 — and props to our peeps at CLMA (President Pontius, Sponsor Orchard Software, and Manager SmithBucklin) for a fab meeting! CLMA killed it. We learned that week, too, about the end of a lawsuit brought by a patient exposed to hepatitis C in one of the city's endoscopy clinics. Epic fail! The jury awarded patient Henry Chanin $5.1 million in compensatory damages; days later he got what is reputedly the largest punitive damages award in Nevada history — $500 million. Oh, snap! Chanin's colonoscopy doctor and nurses settled their medical malpractice claims before the trial.

As reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Chanin sued two manufacturers on product-liability claims related to propofol — the anesthetic used on Mr. Chapin in 2006, which had become contaminated and infected him with hepatitis C. His case was one of nine linked to the Center's clinics. In 2008, because of unsafe injection practices at the clinics, 50,000 of its patients were notified about possible exposure to hepatitis, HIV, and other bloodborne diseases. That's whack!

Chanin's lawyers argued 1) the drug packages featured no appropriate warnings against reusing vials among patients, and 2) the drug companies — knowing that 50-mL vials were misused and that previous outbreaks had occurred — continued to sell 50-mL vials to the Center. The 50-mL vials were more profitable than safer 10-mL vials. Rather than throw away leftover sedative, nurse anesthetists reused larger propofol vials now contaminated by syringes reused among patients, some with hepatitis C. Chanin's lawyers averred his lawsuit represented a case of “profit over patient safety” (“pops” — our slang). Props to the lawyer-types for the “pops” comment. We loved their inventive phraseology a la Johnny Cochran's “If [the gloves] don't fit ….” The clinic's syringes and vials became “weapons of mass infection.”

We thought the Vegas healthcare gamble was over; we were wrong. The next Vegas headline we spied read: “UNLV president backs proposal for program cuts,” including unfriending 60 current students of the clinical laboratory science program. This is janky for UNLV CLS students and another throw of the dice with Nevada's patient safety. There goes the UNLV top dog's street cred. Like other schools that have ended CLS programs, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas will shutter its CLS doors, too.

For shizzle, the growing shortage of qualified medical lab techs and the increasing numbers of baby boomers demanding more medical lab testing — coupled with the continuing development of automated equipment to aid fewer lab personnel to process all those tests — sounds as if the problem is conquered. That is, until we remember it takes a well-educated medical lab tech to interpret the results of all those automated tests for physicians who make 70% to 90% of their medical decisions based on those lab interpretations. Keep it real. What is exiting American labs is experiential knowledge, a generation's career-lifetime of learning — knowledge from years of trial-and-error experimenting, constant collaborating, and dedicated researching. This is what our medical labs are losing.

But it takes a well-educated, well-prepared (and courageous) CLS student to enter one of these modern-day labs full of gnarly automation and phat molecular tests, and begin that experiential learning process with whomever is going to be turning over the keys. The retiring CLS owls are fam to their young counterparts for several years yet. CLS programs and students need to take advantage to glean what they can from those who have been in the know for the past 50 years.

If you are an “owl” like I am to my fam, take a risk; let our countries' foundering CLS programs know that your profession itself has never been about “pops” — it has always been about “peeps” … and for your part in that process, you deserve “props.” There. You got the 411, and I am hip.