PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Health said it received more than 100 complaints about Doctors Test Centers (DTC), a company founded by a gubernatorial hopeful that ran COVID testing services at multiple sites across the state.
DTC was founded early in the pandemic by GOP candidate for governor Ashley Kalus and her husband, Jeffrey Weinzweig. In July, the Illinois-based company secured a nearly $8 million state contract.
Ultimately, the state decided not to renew DTC’s contract when it expired at the end of January, a split that happened so acrimoniously, a police officer wound up filing a report on the dispute as the two sides threatened each other with legal action. The two sides are currently in mediation.
While declining to release specific complaints, Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for RIDOH, described the nature of the complaints made against DTC more broadly to 12 News.
“We received more than a hundred complaints about issues including testing sites closing early, long waits at testing sites, improper disposal of hazardous material, staff not changing gloves between swabs on different patients, staff not wearing masks, missing results and people not receiving results in a timely manner, and a general experience of poor customer service,” Wendelken wrote in an email.
The number and nature of complaints was first reported by the Providence Journal. RIDOH provided the information to the paper the day before Kalus joined the five Democrats vying for governor in their first in-person candidates’ forum.
“My workers risked their lives and I find using this for a political thing to be disgraceful,” Kalus told reporters after the forum concluded.
Kalus defended their work and noted they administered more than 400,000 tests, saying the number of complaints was comparatively tiny.
“We did good work,” she said. “And I left my children as a frontline healthcare worker to help Rhode Islanders.”
While Wendelken said the number of complaints against DTC “exceeded what we received about other vendors’ testing sites, and raised concerns about the customer service experience Rhode Islanders were getting,” he also said it would be too complicated to provide a comparison showing how many complaints were filed against other vendors during the same time.
When asked Thursday about the complaints, interim RIDOH Director Dr. Jim McDonald characterized the number as “substantial.”
“I’ll just put it this way,” he said. “We really want the best service for the people of Rhode Island. We like the best testing.”
He added, “You know one of the things I look at, too, when we deal with contractors is: are we getting along ok? And sometimes it’s just not a great fit, and I’ve got to be honest with you, with Doctors Testing Center [sic] it just wasn’t the best fit for us.”