No State Lab response on critical report

February 15, 2013
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It is unclear what, if any, actions have been taken to correct management issues a report from a lab oversight agency found at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain.

The state Department of Public Health (DPH), which oversees the Hinton Institute, did not respond to a request for comment.

Local state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez said improvement to staff and supervision at the Hinton Institute comes down to resources.

“More oversight means more resources,” he said. “DPH is strapped.”

The management issues at the Hinton Institute include a lack of an overall lab safety program, flawed employee reviews and a lack of a full-time, dedicated “quality assurance” supervisor, according to the Nov. 23 report from the Association of Public Health Laboratories, as the Gazette previously reported.

The Hinton Institute located at 305 South St. is the site of last year’s drug-evidence testing scandal, where former chemist Annie Dookhan is accused of deliberately mishandling evidence in thousands of criminal cases and lying about holding a master’s degree.

The drug-evidence lab was shut down last year, but 17 other labs operate within the State Lab building. Their work includes testing suspected bioterrorism materials, checking racehorses for doping, and examining animals for rabies and West Nile Virus.

Sánchez said it will take time to review and study what went wrong at the Hinton Institute.

“They’re under the proverbial microscope,” he said.