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Gov. Stitt's Plan To Move Oklahoma Public Health Lab To Stillwater Faces More Criticism

The Oklahoma State Department of Health building in Oklahoma City.
Jackie Fortier
/
StateImpact Oklahoma
The Oklahoma State Department of Health building in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s plan to move the state public health laboratory is getting more criticism. A national lab association is raising concerns about the interim facility and uprooting the lab during a pandemic.

 

A few weeks ago, Stitt announced his administration would build a long-awaited public health lab replacement. The current facility is in the state department of health headquarters in Oklahoma City’s biomedical hub, and has been in disrepair for decades.

No one is criticizing the administration’s choice to replace the current facility, but public health officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized the decision to move it away from that hub and its central location to Stillwater. In addition to building a new lab there, the plan would also move the lab to an interim facility in Stillwater by year’s end.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories, a trade group that advocates for those kinds of labs across the country, submitted a letter to the Stitt administration on Tuesday. Like others who have commented on the plan, they praised the administration for replacing the outdated laboratory.

But this letter raised concerns specifically about the interim facility and how costly retrofitting an existing building would be. It reads, in part:

"We believe your plan to relocate the laboratory so quickly, especially during this time, is unrealistic and attempting to meet that deadline is unsafe for the trained staff and the community it serves. We urge you to reconsider your decision."

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Catherine Sweeney grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and attended Oklahoma State University. She has covered local, state and federal government for outlets in Oklahoma, Colorado and Washington, D.C.
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