Nebraska to close lab #2; experts say trend doubtful


North Platte, Neb.-Nebraska may lose its second diagnostic laboratory in one year and there's little hope of curbing it, according to one laboratory official.

North Platte, Neb.-Nebraska may lose its second diagnostic laboratory in one year and there's little hope of curbing it, according to one laboratory official.

Prior to January 1, 2002, the state operated three laboratories - a full-servicelaboratory at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as smaller laboratoriesin Scotts Bluff (which closed earlier this year) and North Platte. AfterNovember 30, it is "highly likely" only Lincoln's will remain,says Jack Schmitz, DVM, Ph.D., dipl. ACVP, executive director, NebraskaDiagnostic Laboratory System.

While budget reductions are upending the laboratory system in Nebraska,Schmitz says he doubts it is a problem nationwide.

"I don't feel this is any kind of national trend at all," saysSchmitz. "Both of these labs were small. They were very nice operationsfor the communities, but I don't think it portends any trend across thecountry. The latest potential laboratory to close, in North Platte, operateson about a $300,000 budget."

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Academic Planning Committee will makethe final decision later this year.

Nebraska now plans to rely on the laboratory at Lincoln to handle itscaseload.

Who's worthy?

When the axe is swinging, affected programs always feel there are betterprograms to cut, but the bottom line is, the university will not lose itsfundamental objective, says Schmitz.

"The chancellor and vice chancellors and deans are making decisionsbased on choosing among bad choices. The university's highest priority isfor instruction. So I believe the choice to cut is based very highly ontrying to not affect teaching budgets or teaching programs as much,"says Schmitz.

Also considered higher criteria for reductions are any duplication ofprograms in the state university system. By nature of the work at diagnosticlaboratories, duplication is unavoidable.

National perspective

Dr. Willie Reed, vice president of the American Association of VeterinaryLaboratory Diagnosticians and diagnostician at Michigan State University,says while it is true many states are facing budget cuts, except for Nebraska,he's not heard of any other laboratories closing.

Instead, he cites the consolidation effort involving laboratories thatis being orchestrated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About a dozen laboratories nationwide have joined a USDA-funded pilotlaboratory network under the umbrella of Homeland Security.

The network needs about $70 million in continuous funding to maintainhigh quality laboratories, according to Reed.

"AAVLD is working on improving all of our laboratories in all ofour states. We're very concerned with (obtaining) full funding for theselaboratories, that they have up to date equipment and be well staffed tobe able to address national emergencies," he says.

"We all remain hopeful that because of our role in national safetythat funding will be made available from Homeland Security to counteractbioterrorism or accidental introduction of foreign animal diseases thatwould damage all animal industries," he says.

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