CHICAGO — Another leading COVID-19 testing company is facing complaints from people across the country — with authorities investigating.
O’Hare Clinical Lab has been reimbursed more than $186 million from the federal government for testing and treatments since the start of the pandemic. The company is based in Chicago and its suburbs, and it has more than 100 locations across the United States.
Many customers told Block Club they’ve had issues with the lab: They said they never got results or they were delayed by weeks, and they couldn’t reach the company when trying to get help, among other concerns.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is investigating O’Hare Clinical Lab, a federal agency has cited the lab at its highest level of infraction and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has received 29 complaints about the business. The Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit business watchdog, has received more than a dozen complaints about the lab.
Officials in Kentucky — where the lab has seven testing sites — have also received complaints and are investigating.
O’Hare Clinical Lab said the company has struggled to keep up with testing during the latest wave of COVID-19 but has recently taken steps to further train staff and ensure all sites are following proper protocols.
“The Omicron surge provided enormous unforeseen challenges for O’Hare Clinical Lab, as it did for many in the health care industry, and, for a short time, lab results were delayed,” an O’Hare Clinical Lab representative said in an emailed statement. “Many of our staff were out sick with COVID and so we were not able to provide our customers with the quick and reliable results they expect and deserve.
“… We are very sorry for any previous delays.”
The company is now providing results within 72 hours and, “in most cases,” 24 hours, a spokeswoman said.
But some customers told Block Club they’re still waiting on results from tests they took weeks ago.
A suburban Glenview woman said she went to an O’Hare Clinical Lab testing site three times with her family in early January, taking rapid and PCR tests. The rapid tests came back negative — but they’ve yet to receive any of the PCR test results from their three visits, despite calling, emailing and filling out an online form, she said.
The woman’s family eventually turned to other sites, where she and one of her sons tested positive. She’s filed a complaint against O’Hare Clinical Lab with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which contacted her this week to learn more, she said.
The woman said she’s worried her family was “going around maybe spreading it because we could not ever get our results,” she said. “I thought I was doing a quick, easy way to get the results, and realized it was really just — it felt like a scam.”
‘They Shouldn’t Test You If They Can’t Produce The Results’
O’Hare Clinical Lab is a federally certified lab with offices in suburban Park Ridge, though its main lab is at 4909 W. Division St. in Chicago, according to federal records. It has pop-up testing sites across the United States, with 119 locations listed on its website.
The pop-up locations offered free rapid and PCR tests, with PCR results “typically” delivered in 48 to 72 hours, according to the lab’s website.
Chicago Polyclinic, a company owned by Mohamed Sirajudeen, is the management company for O’Hare Clinical Lab. Management companies provide services, like marketing materials and supplies, to pop-up testing sites.
On Tuesday, one such pop-up in Albany Park appeared to be open but quiet, with one person visible inside. The company’s headquarters in Park Ridge were open, with about eight people working in the office’s main room while five others — including Sirajudeen and the lab’s attorney — met in a backroom.
The company’s Division Street lab is inside a building owned by Sirajudeen, and it’s on the same floor as a Chicago Public Schools high school. On Tuesday, a student walked through the hallway and school bells rang; one door had a printed sign that said “OCL LAB” taped up, but there was no other visible activity on the floor.
The company has testing locations across the United States, with the bulk of them in the Midwest, including more than 70 in Illinois.
Customers told Block Club they’ve experienced a range of issues when testing with O’Hare Clinical Lab — especially when it came to getting results on time.
An O’Hare Clinical Lab representative said it recently “shored up our procedures and practices to ensure that every collection site follows proper health protocols,” and the company closed its collection sites over the weekend so staff could go through two days of “additional training to make sure our customers are receiving the absolute best possible service.”
“We at O’Hare Clinical Lab are absolutely committed to providing customers with fast, reliable, and safe COVID testing during this ongoing pandemic,” the representative said in a statement.
The Glenview woman said she and her family have yet to receive any PCR test results after testing at an O’Hare Clinical Lab site three times and contacting the company to ask for help. They tested in the first week of January.
“I just feel like it’s irresponsible during a pandemic to give people the false hope that you’re gonna get results … and then not do it,” the woman said. “They shouldn’t test you if they can’t produce the results.”
O’Hare Clinical Lab’s website says people who haven’t gotten their result can call or email. But when the Glenview woman called, no one answered, she said. And when she emailed, the email bounced back — with a message saying O’Hare’s inbox was too full to get more messages. She provided the email to Block Club.
A Block Club reporter who called the lab was on hold for about 30 minutes Tuesday before hanging up. When the reporter emailed the lab’s results email, that message failed, with an error saying O’Hare’s inbox was too full to get more emails.
The Glenview woman is also concerned workers at the test site she went to gave customers business cards saying they were negative after taking a rapid result. The cards did not contain a person’s information or the date on them, meaning the cards could be used by anyone at anytime, she said.
Other people who have tested at O’Hare said they were also given cards with their rapid test results, though others had their names and the date of testing on them.
A Lincoln Square man and his daughter went by an O’Hare Clinical Lab site on Jan. 8, when the two had potential symptoms of COVID-19. The man’s wife and two sons went the next day.
The man had problems filling out his family’s insurance information when signing up, so a worker told him to leave that section blank, he said.
An O’Hare Clinical Lab representative said all of its sites take insurance and customers are asked to provide it.
The Lincoln Square family members took rapid tests at the site, and all came back negative save one son, the man said.
Workers told the man to bring the PCR tests home to his family, administer them and return the swab to get results, which struck him as “weird,” he said.
Workers had told the family they’d have PCR results in two days, but when they hadn’t arrived by Jan. 12, the Lincoln Square man called O’Hare Clinical Lab, he said. He was put on hold and disconnected twice; on the third try, he spoke to an employee who said it would be 10-12 days before the family would get a response, the Lincoln Square man said.
The worker told the man he could go online to request his test results, so the Lincoln Square man did that. The company then sent an email, which contained no information about the man’s results. The man provided the email to Block Club.
The family went elsewhere to get tested, and all of them were positive, the man said.
“I’m hoping I’m an anomaly, but I’m highly doubting it,” the Lincoln Square man said.
The man and his daughter got their results Tuesday night, more than two weeks after having their samples taken. He was sent two results, despite only taking one PCR test, and they were negative, he said. His daughter’s was positive.
The man’s wife and sons are still waiting for their results, he said.
A Highland Park woman went to an O’Hare Clinical Lab site on Dec. 18 and found it “really crowded,” she said; workers told her results would be sent to her in 48 hours, but it was a week before she got her PCR results.
The woman went again Jan. 1 — and still hasn’t received her PCR results from that visit, she said.
The woman said she entered her insurance information the first time she visited, but not the second time, as she was concerned about the site’s legitimacy.
Justin — who asked that only his first name be used — tested at an O’Hare Clinical Lab site on Dec. 31 after getting back from a holiday trip to Kansas, he said. The site seemed “fine,” providing him a swab so he could collect his own sample and then giving him a business card that said “negative” on it for his rapid test result, he said.
Justin waited for his PCR test results, but took an at-home test Jan. 4 that said he was positive for COVID-19. His PCR results from O’Hare Clinical Lab didn’t come until Jan. 15, and they said he was negative for the virus, he said.
A Northwest Side woman and her family got tested at an O’Hare Clinical Lab site Dec. 31; they were given rapid results in less than five minutes, but they still haven’t received PCR results, she said. The woman was not required to enter her insurance information when registering, she said.
The woman’s husband called to ask for PCR results, and a worker said he would email the results — but then sent old results from a prior visit, the Northwest Side woman said. The worker told the family the mixup was an issue with the lab, and he didn’t have access to their most recent results, the woman said.
The woman went by another O’Hare Clinical Lab location and got PCR results within 24 hours, she said.
“I know sites are behind and things aren’t getting reviewed as quickly as they can be, but if you’re waiting for a PCR test and you’re not getting it in an adequate amount of time, what’s the point of having a pop-up site to go to if they can’t honor that?” the woman said.
Similar issues have been reported online and throughout the country. A recent Nextdoor thread for suburban Glenview drew dozens of comments, with many people saying they’d also experienced issues. Many people have also posted complaints about not getting results on the lab’s Facebook page.
When the lab posted on Facebook on Nov. 29, dozens of people left comments saying they were waiting for delayed results and hadn’t heard back from the company.
“The waiting continues,” one person wrote on the post. “I am still waiting on results going on 5 days now. Perhaps they should consider scaling back testing if they are unable to keep up with demand … .”
The Illinois Department of Public Health is investigating O’Hare Clinical Lab, a spokeswoman confirmed, though she declined to comment further.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office has received 29 complaints about the lab and has been in contact with its customers to “obtain additional information,” a department spokeswoman said.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have also cited the lab for “immediate jeopardy” — the highest level of infraction — when it comes to O’Hare’s general laboratory systems.
A surveyor who on Nov. 9 went to the lab’s Division Street location asked for documentation that two pop-up testing workers had been trained, but the company’s staff did not provide that, according to the federal review. The surveyor then asked for documentation staff had been trained to process rapid tests at 50 pop-up testing sites, but the lab staff only provided documentation for 15 of the 50 testing sites, according to the report.
An inspector reviewing an O’Hare Clinical Lab pop-up in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, found there wasn’t a refrigerator to store supplies or a thermometer to monitor the temperature as required by testing manufacturers, according to the federal report.
The workers at the Pleasant Prairie site also didn’t properly label test tubes that contained people’s samples, according to the report.
The pop-ups also sent PCR test samples to Devon Polyclinic, where workers labeled the tubes and then sent them to O’Hare Clinical Lab to be tested, according to the report. But Devon Polyclinic is not approved for labeling samples, processing them or rejecting them under the lab’s policy, according to the report.
Devon Polyclinic is owned by Sirajudeen, who said he manages O’Hare Clinical Lab and who owns the building the lab is in. People testing at sites advertised as being part of O’Hare Clinical Lab have also gotten rapid test results cards that have Polyclinic’s information on them.
The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office has received 10 complaints related to O’Hare laboratories, and those complaints are under review, a department spokeswoman said.
And the health department in Louisville, Kentucky — where O’Hare has five testing sites — has received more than a dozen complaints about the lab and has provided them to the state’s Office of the Inspector General, a spokeswoman said.
“The theme of the complaints we’ve received is that they do the testing then don’t provide results,” said health department spokeswoman Kristen Shanahan. “For one person it has been 11 days and still no response. For others, five to six.”
Local news station WHAS11 first reported the Louisville complaints.
The Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit that tracks consumer complaints about businesses, has received 13 complaints about O’Hare Clinical Lab from people in various states, as well. Every complaint alleges results were delivered late or never arrived.
Center For COVID Control
O’Hare Clinical Lab was a “reference lab” for Doctors Clinical Lab, the go-to lab for the Center for COVID Control, Nov. 21-Dec. 5.
But the labs have no connection, and O’Hare Clinical Lab is not affiliated with the Center for COVID Control, an O’Hare lab representative said. O’Hare Clinical Lab “discontinued our relationship” with Doctors Clinical Lab last year, the representative said.
An attorney for O’Hare Clinical Lab also denied the labs had any connection.
The Center for COVID Control — which is based out of suburban Rolling Meadows but had 300 locations across the United States — is being investigated by federal and state authorities. Its Rolling Meadows office was raided this weekend by the FBI, and it has been sued by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.
A spokesman for the Center for COVID Control did not respond to a request for comment.
Former employees of the Center for COVID Control also said O’Hare Clinical Lab acted as a reference lab, processing some of the tests that were collected at the Center for COVID Control’s pop-up testing sites.
Shayna Lange, a former Center for COVID Control employee, said Doctors Clinical Lab would send thousands of samples to O’Hare Clinical Lab to be tested.
There were issues at times for the Center for COVID Control, Lange said: When customers called the Center for COVID Control to get test results, its workers didn’t have an easy way to see the person’s result or contact O’Hare Clinical Lab to get an update. And O’Hare Clinical Lab was dealing with so many tests that it was often delayed in getting results to Center for COVID Control customers, Lange said.
Christine Morales, another former Center for COVID Control employee, also said Center for COVID Control used O’Hare Clinical Lab to process some PCR tests for several months. That’s was around the time the Center for COVID Control began to struggle with long delays in getting people their results, Morales said.
“It would take forever to get back the results, if they ever got back the results,” Morales said.
Lange and Morales said Doctors Clinical Lab used O’Hare Clinical Lab because there were issues with its Rolling Meadows lab.
Doctors Clinical Lab also maintained a website that listed the CLIA number for O’Hare Clinical Lab. CLIA numbers are used by the federal government to identify labs.
Morales also said Doctors Clinical Lab had a temporary, off-site lab this fall in the same Division Street building as O’Hare Clinical Lab. That building is owned by Wahid Investments, which is managed by Sirajudeen.
A former Doctors Clinical Lab worker said that lab did set up shop temporarily in the Division Street building, and O’Hare lab staff trained Doctors Clinical Lab workers.
An O’Hare Clinical Lab representative said the two are not in the same building and the company’s workers have never provided training to Doctors Clinical Lab staff.
Colin Boyle contributed to this report.
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