Letter to Patients from May 27th
My name is Raymond with Embry Women’s Health. I am the individual in charge of building our COVID-19 testing program as well as planning and executing our Saturday COVID-19 Testing Blitz. Over the past two months you have trusted Embry Women’s Health to bring you accurate and timely COVID-19 testing. Both for the original diagnostic test and now the antibody test. I am sending you this email as you may have heard or experienced extremely disappointing turn around time on diagnostic test results from the Test Blitz on May 16. You deserve the truth and I want to set the record straight. I realize this email is long, but please read through to get the full context.
Our commitment has always been timely results and accurate results and we have organized our operation to focus on this. As you may know there are three primary labs that medical providers use in Arizona. They consist of Sonora Quest, Labcorp and BioReference. All three of them introduced their COVID-19 Diagnostic Test the same week in March. We historically have had a fantastic relationship with BioReference and originally used them as our primary lab for the diagnostic test. They had a two day turnaround time, which for the end of March was extremely fast. As you may remember public labs in America at that time were taking upwards of 15 days to report results.
BioReference originally did a fantastic job maintaining a consistent turn around time. Until one day they crashed and without notice results started taking a week or longer. We immediately sought answers and were met with a brick wall. We knew we had to make a change and immediately evaluated Sonora Quest and Labcorp. Before making a change we wanted to verify their published turn around time. We took swabs on several employees and sent them into both labs. After doing this several times we found that Sonora Quest had a one day turn around, while LabCorp took two. We made the obvious choice to change to Sonora Quest.
From early April until present Sonora Quest has been our exclusive lab for COVID-19 diagnostic tests. They consistently and surprisingly maintained a 24 hour turnaround time. Many times we would wake up at 5AM to find results reported for specimens we had just sent in the previous night. Both our staff and patients were satisfied by the consistent turn around time, until last week when things fell apart at Sonora Quest.
To say things fell apart is actually an understatement. Other more appropriate terms might be catastrophe, calamity, tribulation, take your pick. Today is May 27th and we are still waiting for results on some patients diagnostic test results from May 16th. Which is simply unacceptable. To make matters worse we had zero notice whatsoever from Sonora Quest that we would experience this change. On May 16th our staff told patients that at the max they would have to wait 1 to 2 business days. Which was actually longer than it had taken at any point in the previous two months. But we wanted to include a buffer in the event there was a delay. It has now been 8 business days and we are still waiting on some diagnostic test results. There has been zero consistency in their operation or performance regarding specimens submitted on May 16th.
Believe me, it would never be in our best interest to misrepresent result lead times. It is harmful and unfair to our patients as well as our employees. I’m sure you can imagine the number of angry phone calls that our staff has had to take in the past several days. These are the same employees who have in some cases worked 24 hours straight on Saturday’s to run a successful Test Blitz.
I’m going to be honest I have no idea what happened to Sonora Quest the weekend of May 16th. They are not operating in a transparent manner. Clearly something had to have happened as we have already received results from our most recent blitz on May 23rd. They have consistently told my staff and I that they are experiencing a backlog due to the recent “surge” in testing. However, if that were true, how could we already receive results from May 23rd while still waiting for results from May 16th. Please do not take this as me saying not to trust the results from Sonora Quest. Simply that there has to be some type of delay that they are not being fully transparent with.
Additionally, I have heard from patients that they were able to get tested at a Banner location previously and receive results the next day. Please know that this is exactly the same as if you had previously been tested by Embry Women’s Health, as we always received results the next day. Banner Health uses Sonora Quest exclusively. Any patient who was tested on May 16th by Banner would have experienced the same delays we did. This was a statewide issue that the Arizona Department of Health Services is aware of and that impacted all Test Blitz sites that use Sonora Quest.
To those patients still waiting for results, simply put I’m sorry. I know what it is like to put your life on hold due to COVID-19. There is not a single person that has not been impacted in one way or another by COVID-19. We promised you results in a timely manner and the lab partner we chose failed to deliver on that promise. But I beg of you, please do not direct your frustration at our team. Sonora Quest failed us and they have failed you.
While I was writing this letter a patient called and yelled at my staff saying “she will tell anyone she knows to never use our service”. I’m sure you can imagine how demoralizing this is after working so hard to help people get tested. If we had known that Sonora Quest was going to fail so horribly after two months of exceptional performance we would have clearly communicated this. As well as not using Sonora Quest for our Test Blitz days. I’ve included contact information below for Sonora Quest leaders who work directly with clients.
It would be an understatement to say that we have given our lives to making COVID-19 testing as accessible as possible. At least four of us have worked on the project every day since testing began on April 1st. On the night of May 16th we were at the office until 2AM ensuring that every specimen was ready to go out that night. They have truly given everything to this project. To ensure that anyone who wants to get tested in our community can be. We stay until the job is done and always get our specimens out on time.
Please know that we care about you and always want to do what is right. The turnaround time at Sonora Quest seems to have mostly recovered. However, they have lost our trust in failing to communicate with us in a transparent and timely manner. We have consistently been one of the top testing sites in the state and they should have done more to ensure our patients and staff were aware of any issues. We are currently revisiting the other labs that offer COVID-19 Diagnostic tests. We sent specimens to each of them last night and may change our lab based on the results. We will continue to offer testing blitz events including this coming weekend as well as testing on other days. However, we are now telling patients 5-7 business days while using Sonora Quest.
Thank you for your time and your trust.
Director of Development
PS: I encourage you to share your feedback with Sonora Quest 602.685.5000. If the delayed test results have impacted your life I know they would want to know about it.
PPS: If you believe we could have done better on something please let me know directly firstname.lastname@example.org Additionally, sometimes our staff only hears when something goes wrong. If there is something they did to help you please share it with me. I know it would make their day and I would love to tell them about it.