The Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation Wednesday to construct a new state health lab. Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, is the author of Senate Bill 236 to authorize the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue nearly $59 million in bonds for the construction of the new facility.
David said the lab has faced losing its accreditation since 2008, which would be detrimental and extremely costly for the state, and this year the legislature must act.
“The Oklahoma Health Lab is at serious risk of losing its accreditation, which will shut the lab down and the state will have to outsource all services at an additional cost of $9 million annually,” said David, Senate Appropriations Chair. “The lab provides crucial health services for not only the state but for counties and the public as well. Their work includes diagnosing and preventing the spread of communicable diseases, identifying terrorist events and providing newborn screenings for inherited metabolic disorders. We must ensure those services are not interrupted.”
Built in 1972, the Health Lab is one of the oldest in the nation. Numerous assessments by the Association of Public Health Laboratories, the College of American Pathologists and other organizations since 2008 have concluded that the facility is outdated and not capable of supporting technically advanced work. The building is also prone to flooding and has an unreliable heat and air system that can negatively impact tests performed on site.
In 2015, the Long Range Capital Planning Commission identified $349 million in total critical capital needs and the health lab was at the top of the list.
The Department of Health estimated the cost of a new 49,000 square-foot lab would be $40 million in 2009. Today, they estimate the cost will require a 20-year bond for $58.5 million.
David pointed out that the use of bond financing for the project will not increase the state’s debt as nearly half the state’s tax-backed bond debt will be paid off by 2020.