Dissatisfied with OptumServe, public health makes a change

A letter signed by the Lassen County Public Health Officer Kenneth Korver and Health and Social Services Director Barbara Longo informed OptumServe the local department would no longer offer them the Paul Bunyan Road location for their community based testing, effective March 1. Instead, the county secured its owns COVID-19 testing solution.

“While a difficult decision, it is in our best interest to properly serve and protect Lassen County residents during the COVID-19 pandemic,” read the signed letter.

In mid-January, Southern California-based OptumServe lab became the primary community-based testing service, replacing the contract the county had with Verily. According to that contract, starting Jan. 20, OptumServe came to Lassen county once a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, and the letter alleged “OptumServe testing numbers are beyond disappointing.” The most tests conducted during one of their visits were 78 test specimens, according to the letter.

Longo further discussed the correspondence during the Tuesday Lassen County Board of Supervisors meeting.

She explained the county was able to coordinate with a Northern California lab to provide testing at no cost to the public, the department or the state. For those receiving tests, insurance or MediCal will be billed. For anyone not covered, the lab would use its own CARES act funding.

Longo added the new Northern California company already provided 500 test kits and will come pick them up from Lassen.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity,” she told the supervisors, adding the department will set some designated testing hours.

“Such services will not only provide the surveillance data needed to contain the COVID-19 virus locally, but will preserve California taxpayer funds, as well,” continued the letter.

The letter also detailed the local department’s frustration with OptumServe.

“Our initial concerns with having a California centralized testing solution have not only proven to be true, but is turning out to be worse than what we had originally thought,” read the letter. “The fact that the governor’s office, California Department of Health leadership, OptumServe and the commissioned Testing Task Force have demonstrated no interest in resolving our issues is unconscionable.”

The letter alleged OptumServe was not following CDC or CDPH COVID-19 guidelines, and on one day, OptumServe staff was “coughing violently.”

Other events the local department considered when making the decision included OptumServe’s unreliability, and not showing up when scheduled, only testing in one location one day a week, poor personal protective equipment when mixing with local staff, not sharing the schedule of testing appointments with the Lassen public health, the “disappointing” testing numbers, alleged incomplete courier transport paperwork “putting into question test sample accuracy,” and costly next day delivery for negative tests.

“Therefore, the citizens of Lassen County deserve better and we have taken the course of action needed to protect our communities, including the disparate areas of our county,” read the letter. “We are available to offer consultation to OptumServe in their search for a new location.”