After weeks of revelations about the embattled suburban Chicago COVID-19 testing company, Center for COVID Control (CCC) said it will remain closed, but some of its testing sites may reopen under different names.
Allegations against the company and its affiliated lab vendor Doctors Clinical Laboratory (DCL) include missing test results, deficiencies in collection methods, and reckless testing practices. Both CCC and DCL are now mired in controversy and the focus of several active federal and state investigations.
A spokesperson for CCC said Wednesday that it is allowing its local test site operators to sever ties with the main company while it deals with those investigations.
The move applies to 100 or more independent operators that could choose to resume testing under different company names, working with a laboratory other than DCL, according to a company spokesperson.
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A spokesperson told NBC 5 Responds that the company’s founders met with its independent testing operators in a video conference this week to offer them the opportunity to be released from their contracts with the company, if the independent operators would prefer to continue testing on their own while CCC remains closed.
On Wednesday, the spokesman said CCC’s founders, Aleya Siyaj and Akbar ‘Ali’ Syed, a husband and wife team, are committed to re-opening their company but doing so would hinge on resolving the questions and concerns from inspectors, the spokesman said.
From Dec. 2020, when the company’s founders first registered its business license in Illinois, to early January of this year, CCC previously said its footprint grew to 320 testing sites in 22 states, with 3,000 employees.
Syed previously told NBC 5 during the Omicron infection surge, the company went from processing around 8,000 tests a day to more than 80,000.
As the company’s footprint grew, so did the number of consumer complaints in its path.
Many patients have complained that the company and its partner lab failed to deliver COVID-19 test results, or in some cases, the companies delivered results to people who had not even provided samples.
The company has attributed these problems to the recent surge in infections, and staffing challenges.
Facing public backlash, the company’s founders paused all of its testing operations on Jan. 14 for one week, in order to retrain its staff on clinical operations and HIPAA procedures, the company said.
Before the company had a chance to reopen though, the Illinois Attorney General stepped in on Jan. 21 and announced all CCC locations would remain closed “for the foreseeable future” as several state and federal investigations played out.
In addition to consumer complaints – including a consumer protection lawsuit filed against the company in Minnesota -- and an “F” rating by the Better Business Bureau, federal inspectors have also discovered red flags in DCL that processed COVID-19 tests.
A report obtained by NBC 5 Responds from the Center Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said federal inspectors found multiple failures -- both in CCC’s sample collection procedures and in DCL’s handling of the tests – during inspections last November.
The report was first uncovered by Block Club Chicago.
Some examples from the CMS report include one case where 51 patient samples submitted for testing had no labels or other identifying markings, meaning there was no way to know who the tests were coming from.
CMS inspectors also found more than 40,000 patient samples were, essentially, rendered useless due to poor staff handling and storage protocols.
The spokesperson for CCC said that if the company’s independent operators choose to leave their agreements and re-open under a different name, they would have to affiliate with a different laboratory.
A database that tracks the federal government’s COVID-19 spending on tests for the uninsured shows taxpayers have paid DCL more than $140 million since the pandemic began.
CCC gets a portion of that, a spokesperson for CCC said, by way of a “management services agreement” between CCC and DCL. The companies share an address in Rolling Meadows, business records show.
The past weekend, FBI agents served a search warrant at those offices.
"The FBI was conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity in Rolling Meadows [Saturday],” the FBI said. “Department of Justice policy prevents the FBI from commenting on the nature of any investigations that may or may not be occurring.”
NBC 5 Responds confirmed that the investigation included agents with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), according to spokesperson Yvonne Gamble.
The company acknowledged the search warrant earlier this week.
“Although we cannot provide specific comments regarding ongoing investigations, the company intends to fully cooperate with all government inquiries, and remains committed to providing the best service possible to our patients,” CCC said in a statement.
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