OCMS Opposes the Oklahoma Public Health Laboratory Relocation Plan

Recently, Governor Kevin Stitt and his Interim Commissioner of Health, Lance Frye, MD, announced the impending transfer of the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Public Health Laboratory in Oklahoma City to Stillwater. The governor announced the establishment of the Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence with the movement of the Public Health Laboratory to rural Stillwater to join the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine as part of a multi-disciplinary basic science lab for human, animal, plant and food-related bioterrorism by the end of 2020.

It is critical that the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Public Health Laboratory be organizationally and physically located in close proximity to each other as well as the OUHSC campus, which is recognized nationally as a leader in health care. The Public Health Laboratory is located within 10 minutes of all major interstates that crisscross the state of Oklahoma. Also, because it is centrally located in Oklahoma City, it can respond to the vast majority of the state within a few hours.

Dr. Frye says the project will be funded by the existing $9.5 million public health laboratory budget and federal dollars available from the CARES Act money. A $58.5 million bonding capacity authorized for the public health lab in 2017 by the Oklahoma Legislature will be activated to help build a new facility in Stillwater.

OCMS applauds the desire of the governor to update the lab facility from the 2017 bond and support the agricultural industry’s needs. However, it appears that this decision was made without conducting a study to determine the best organizational and geographical location, without consultation with the laboratory’s leadership, and without demonstrating consideration to the roughly 100 employees who will likely be unable to relocate to a city located hours away from their current workplace location. We encourage the unification of agricultural research and the public health sector, but not the expense of Oklahomans’ healthcare. 

OCMS prioritizes the health and livelihoods of Oklahomans and opposes using CARES Act monies to fund the move to another city. Please contact your state legislators immediately and request that this move be stopped.