OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Lawmakers on a Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget unanimously voted to repeal a roughly $58 million bond previously approved by the state legislature for Oklahoma’s Public Health Lab.

In support of the rollback, lawmakers referenced the original, legislative intent to use the bond to build a new lab to replace the previous one that fell into disrepair.

However, the lab was relocated to its current site in Stillwater from Oklahoma City, instead.

“We did not build the lab. The lab went to Stillwater [and] is up and running with some minor issues that we are still working out,” said Sen. Paul Rosino, (R) – Oklahoma City, speaking on the initiative in committee on Wednesday.

Watch the meeting here.

“To be truthful, the health department themselves have requested that they don’t really need the bond. We don’t want to keep sitting on these bonds for no reason,” he added during the committee meeting.

The lab continues to face fallout over testing capacity issues, staffing shortages and the outsourcing of routine testing in spite of the state of the art facility.

“It’s about accountabiluty, poor planning, even worse execution; why did we move it so quickly that we didn’t even plan to build the proper facilities, ” said George Monks, M.D., Past Oklahoma State Medical Association President.

“We’re the only lab in the United States that cannot perform TB and bioterrorism testing,” he added.

“Building a brand new $30 million dollar state of the art Oklahoma Public Health Lab that doesn’t even include a properly vented room for lab workers to safely perform tuberculosis & bioterrorism testing is like building a brand new 100,000 seat football stadium without bathrooms.”

The lab began outsourcing tuberculosis testing in addition to several other tests “to prevent an interruption of services and to protect Oklahomans’ health” in 2021 according to a news release.

Health officials have not indicated when or if the capability will return.

For months, KFOR has also been investigating several issues surrounding the state lab which provides essential public health testing for the state, including accreditation, testing capabilities, accuracy, staffing levels, and frustrations around the newborn testing program, which has caused several families “pain and anguish” due to an abnormal number of false positives for serious genetic testing.

In 2022, KFOR was granted access inside the Stillwater lab for a tour, along with an interview with the state’s health commissioner, who cited cost savings and overall efficiency for lab operations as reasons to send routine tests like rabies to other labs for processing.

Even as health officials continue to claim that the lab’s move was the right idea, critics say the challenges continue to cripple the lab’s ability to perform its public health mission.

“We’ve relocated our lab and we’ve got new state of the art equipment,” Health Commissioner Keith Reed said in a previous interview with KFOR.

The agency issued a new statement Wednesday in response to the committee meeting, saying it will follow the legislature:

“The OSDH is monitoring this bill as it moves through the legislative process. We will operate under what the legislature sets forth for our agency.”

Oklahoma State Department of Health

“This lab has been very costly to Oklahoma taxpayers [and] now they’re getting bids to build another Oklahoma public health lab because this one is performing so poorly,” said Dr. Monks.

“One mistake after another and it involved wasting millions that we’re never going to get back,” he added.