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Northshore labs is defrauding Washoe County with COVID-19 testing, former employee says

An employee takes a COVID-19 test at South Valleys Library in Washoe County.
An employee takes a COVID-19 test at South Valleys Library in Washoe County.
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A former Northshore Clinical Labs employee said the COVID-19 testing company is defrauding Washoe County because it never had the capacity to expand to test 1,600 people per day.

In an exclusive interview with News 4-Fox 11, the employee described a company that was in over its head and resorted to extreme measures to try and stay afloat as the omicron surge drove demand for testing to unprecedented levels.

The employee, who started working for Northshore in late 2021 and quit in early 2022, said they were told to reuse protective gloves, weren't allowed to take lunch or bathroom breaks and were asked to throw unreported test results in the trash.

"I think that they should be held accountable," the employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said.

They've defrauded Washoe County, they've defrauded this community and they've defrauded the taxpayers.

Washoe County partnered with the Chicago-based Northshore Clinical Labs to open four community testing sites in early January.

But Northshore, which had previously been doing testing for Washoe County schools and Nevada higher education institutions, wasn't ready to more than triple its testing capacity, the employee said.

"I don't believe that they ever had the capacity and I truly believe that they kind of went in on this as a gamble," they said.

I think they figured they would get the contract, start testing people and figure it out later. And it turns out, they couldn't figure it out.

They said the company quickly fell behind after beginning to test people at the four pop-up locations, resulting in some people waiting 7-10 days to receive their test results. One woman told News 4-Fox 11 Monday she still hadn't received her results after 10 days.

A company representative said such delays are too long, but that the delays weren't unique to Northshore during the omicron surge.

"(Delays) happened all over the country because omicron drove a huge spike in demand for COVID tests. Clinical labs started receiving thousands more test samples than they could process. That’s why Northshore made the difficult decision late last year to proactively cancel its contracts with third-party testing sites. That was the only way they could bring the volume of incoming test samples to a level that they could sustainably manage," wrote Northshore representative Mac McNeer.

In response to the claim of reused protective equipment, McNeer said Northshore follows standard safety procedures.

"Northshore has an office and a lab director located in Nevada, holds a Nevada CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) certification, and operates under the required Standard Operating Procedures," he wrote.

Northshore labs was so overwhelmed that unreported test results may have been thrown out in the chaos, the whistleblower said. On their first day doing testing at Bartley Ranch Regional Park, they described being asked to ration gloves toward the end of their shift by using hand sanitizer in between tests, despite company policy requiring a new pair of gloves for each test to avoid cross-contamination.

"It was just a nightmare," they said. "When we're cutting corners and potentially interfering with results, I have a problem with that."

Washoe County spokeswoman Bethany Drysdale said the county entered an agreement with Northshore to expand testing because the company was already testing with the school district and Nevada athletics.

The one-year contract began on Dec. 22, 2021, but either party can terminate with 60 days notice.

"Payment is through private insurance or Northshore billing the federal government for those who do not have insurance. There is no compensation from Washoe County to Northshore," she wrote.

Drysdale wrote that the company was holding up its end of the bargain.

Northshore Clinical Labs is doing the COVID-19 testing that they agreed to do and are licensed by the State of Nevada to do.

"They are administering 400 tests per location every day for our community, a much-needed service at this time when COVID-19 cases are surging," she said in an emailed statement.

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Email reporter Ben Margiott at Follow @BenMargiott on Twitter and Ben Margiott KRNV on Facebook.

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