UCB Parents Medical Recommendations

Meris Labs

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(Nov 1998)

I am pregnant and went to Meris Lab at 2999 Regent Street for my AFP test. This test detects early signs of birth defects and can only be administered between the 15th to 20th weeks of pregnancy. I went to give blood for the test in my 17th week. I was told that I would be notified in about a week if the test was positive and I would not be contacted at all if the text was negative (which I think is a bad system to start with). About 2 weeks after I took the test I had a doctor appointment and was reassured that if the test was positive I would have heard by then. Five weeks after I had given blood I received a phone call from Meris Lab. I was told that the Post Office had lost my blood in the mail. They said my information had never been entered into their computer so they had not noticed my blood was missing until it had mysteriously shown up in the mail 5 weeks late. When I asked why my information was never entered in the computer I was told it was because the staff at Meris "did not have time to enter it". Now my blood sample is too old to do the test and it is too late for me to give a fresh sample. If Meris had just entered my information into their computer they would have noticed my missing blood in time to take a new sample. Also, they did manage to enter my billing information because their bill arrived in a timely manner. My problem now is that the Bay Physicans/Alta Bates Medical Group is only contracted with Meris Labs, so I am stuck going to them for the remainder of my blood tests. There are other locations to go to but I am rather hesitant to use any Meris Lab after the negligent behavior apparent at the 2999 Regent Street location. When I asked my HMO for recommedations on the alternate locations, they said they have had complaints about most of the Meris Labs. Has anyone out there had a positive experience with a Meris Lab? Would anyone recommend an alternate lab? Please help!


From: a mom (11/98)

I have tons of experience with Meris Labs, mostly the one at 2999 Regent. Many of my tests have been STAT (results needed that day). I soon got into the habit of writing down the order numbers of the lab slips and keeping Meris's Customer Service phone number (800 number in tiny print at the top of the lab slip) on hand. I wasn't shy about calling it if I felt it was taking too long to get lab results. Even though the number is meant for doctors to call for results, the person at the number will fax the reports to your doctor (or even a different doctor) if you ask. This is especially important if you have lots of tests run at one time and they take different amounts of time (over night to many days) to run--sometimes Meris will send a preliminary report to the doctor with partial test results but never send the final report with complete test results. Sometimes their printer or fax machine might be broken one day and then they forget to resend the report later. Sometimes I've had to ask Customer Service for the number the computer stores results by so I can track down lab results. Once I had the experience where the wrong person's (i.e., a stranger's) results were sent to my doctor. I should note that I never had a problem with the Meris lab on Colby St. but for various reasons, they never received any nonstraightforward business from me. Unfortunately I haven't had experience with other outside labs. If you're stuck with Meris, maybe my own "survival techniques" will be of help to you in the future. But frankly, based on Meris's own sloppy habits, I think a policy of not sending negative lab results to a doctor for any test is very poor.

I can really feel for you in your situation. Are there any other tests you might be able to get at this date, before an amnio is possible? Possibly through UCSF? If your doctor doesn't know, then maybe he/she knows a reproductive endocrinologist who would know what's available at UCSF.


From: a mom (11/98)

I'm sorry to say that about 4 1/2 years ago we had a terrible experience with that particular Meris Lab - actually with our son who had hypoglycemia when he was born, & needed blood drawn from a vein when he was 4 days old. >From what I understood, they had just been contracted as the only lab for the med. group &/or the ins. co. (Healthnet) specifically because they had supposedly hired someone who could draw blood from newborns. Our very fabulous pediatrician had made a special deal w/Alta Bates to take his blood, as he knew no qualified person was actually at Meris yet. Unfortunately we didn't really understand what the issue was, and when we went (completely out of our minds of course, which is why we never complained, and why I'm so glad to get have the opportunity to get this off my chest now-thanks!) Alta Bates in all their wisdom didn't have a clue, said no way and sent us to Meris, who actually went ahead & did the blood drawing by pricking his foot (for the zillionth time in 4 days), which was totally not the point, and completely the wrong thing to do. Our son went through a lot of unnecessary pain and we were completely overwhelmed. I'm sorry to tell you this old story now, because I'm sure you're very concerned, and I hope you don't worry too much. I don't want to frighten anyone, it's maybe just more fuel for the fire. In fact, if anyone wants to make an official complaint, I'd like to remedy our negligence in not complaining the first time around - I'd be happy to find any documentation I can & write it all down properly. Also, I suggest you complain again, in writing, to the medical group and to your insurance company. They should be held 100% liable if you do have any complications at all (which of course you won't!!). If our stories are not unique, our health care providers should simply not be contracted with such a crummy operation.


From a mom (11/98)

I have had to go to Meris Labs for many years now and I have never been happy with them. Although I've never experienced such extremely negligent behavior as you describe, I have felt many times that the employees just don't care about doing a good job. Although I have a very large and easy to find vein on my left arm, several times I came out with a hematoma because they missed the vein or poked the needle through it. They also seem to make frequent paperwork errors (luckily all minor so far).

I have never complained because of lack of time and wanting to avoid hassle, but now I'm thinking that's a mistake. If all of us that are unhappy with Meris complain, maybe there would be another lab we would be allowed to use, or maybe Meris would clean up their act. My question is, how do I complain effectively? Is there an address to complain to? A statewide department for medical complaints?


From: a mom (11/98)

I believe that an amnio can be performed as soon as the 16th week of pregnancy. On the other hand, my information is quite old (I did a study in college in 1983), so they may have changed the times that they perform this test. Does anyone know when they typically perform amnios these days?

Additionally, if I were the original poster about this, I certainly wouldn't consider Amnio to be an adequate substitute for the AFP test. An Amnio is MUCH more invasive and carries risk that the AFP does not.

I hope you are able to adequately express your dissatisfaction with Meris. One technique that got results for us (when I was trying to get my insurance company to pay for my midwife) was to send a letter of complaint to everyone we could think of. In your case, this might include Meris, the HMO, your regular doctor, your OB, the UC Benefits office, KCBS Call for Action, Seven on Your Side (a similar advocacy program for ABC's Channel 7), and anyone else you can think of. Good luck; I hope other folks have better info about tests you can do now.


From: a mom (11/98)

I too had a terrible experience with Meris Labs (on Milvia) several years ago when I was pregnant with my oldest child. They did such a bad job that I got a hematoma that covered much of my arm. It was still there a week later when I went to my normal prenatal visit and the doctor was so mad she marched me up there (it was in the same building) and balled out the tech who had done it. It is very dangerous for a pregnant woman to get a hematoma and she was livid. It was quite a scene as you might imagine. Anyway, she wrote a letter, I wrote a letter, everyone wrote a letter, but alas, it seems nothing has changed. I have since changed to Hill Physicians through Healthnet, and they use UniLabs. They have been great. Efficient, friendly, quick, prompt with results, just great. They even have a list of which labs have designated, trained pediatric draw techs. I don't know if you can go to them, but it was one reason we switched med groups when I was pregnant with my second. Good Luck and PLEASE COMPLAIN TO THE PLAN AND MEDICAL GROUP!!!!


From: a mom (11/98)

In my latest issue of the HR/Benefits Review from UC, there was mention of a questionnaire on health plans at the website www.ucop.edu/bencom. Maybe this is a place to lodge complaints about Meris Labs. Then perhaps UC will negotiate for other labs with the HMOs.

Just an aside: our doctor was at CPMC in SF, but we were restricted to Meris Labs even though there was a good lab at CPMC (once stop "shopping"--it would have been easier to go to that lab rather than drag the kids to yet another place with no parking!) We complained and -- maybe more importantly -- our doctor complained. I guess other people also complained, because as of the following year we were able to use the CPMC lab. So don't give up!


From: a mom (11/98)

When I originally read the post from the other UCB parents member with the bad experience at Meris I thought I would just contact her directly and let her know that the same thing happened to me. However, the response has been so overwhelming I though perhaps I should also share my experience with the rest of you.

My AFP tests were also lost by Meris. I couldn't believe it when I read the post as I felt like I was reliving the same awful situation. The only difference was that I had my blood drawn at the Meris lab on Telegraph. I do not hold Meris entirely at fault, but my OB/GYN as well. I too repeatedly asked about the results of my test and was told not to worry about it, that I would have heard if there was a problem. When another doctor in my practice finally followed up for me and it was determined that the blood had been lost in the mail I demanded another ultrasound, because it was too late to draw more blood. I might add that I had already had CVS so Downs had been ruled out and we were testing primarily for Spina bifida. Everything appeared fine on both ultra sounds. I find this very interesting that this happened to someone else, as I was told that it was the first time this had ever happened. Quite a coincidence wouldn't you say? Good luck - I'm sure everything will be fine.


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