Hays County Budget Workshop Derailed Over April Ethics Questions Regarding COVID-19 Testing Kits
Terra Rivers | Managing Editor
On Tuesday, the Hays County Commissioners Court received a presentation during their budget workshop from Kyle Hayungs with MRG Medical concerning a Medicare and Medicaid Program for underserved residents.
The conversation went off the rails when Hayungs focused on addressing questions from Commissioner Walt Smith, which were presented at a commissioners’ court meeting in April.
On April 14, the Hays County Commissioners Court were addressed by representatives of MD Box including its Chief Biologist during a discussion to purchase and distribute COVID-19 tests and other products and services related to COVID-19.
During the conversation, Commissioner Smith expressed concerns and asked questions regarding information that had been released by MRG and its partners as well as advertising efforts that had contained factual inaccuracies.
According to commissioners, Hayungs was slated to provide a budget presentation to the commissioners’ court; however, he insisted on addressing Smith’s previous questions over giving his presentation.
Hayungs showed Commissioners clips of a press conference held by Becerra, MD Box Founder and CEO of Reliant Immune Diagnostics, Dr. Henry Legere, and footage from the April 14 commissioners meeting.
Hayungs said he was present at court Tuesday to clarify Smith’s question and address concerns.
Smith noted that his concerns stemmed primarily from the marketing material used by MRG Marketing that were “sent to members of CAPCOG.”
In April, Smith presented documentation of marketing material which included claims about Hays County.
“The concerns that I have specifically are claims you made about the county and the specific role that MRG holds in our county,” Smith said. “And the questions I have are specifically related to the claims that you are our FEMA representative.”
While Hayungs said MRG’s account executive handling the communication may have been “a little ambitious that day,” Smith noted he had a similar quote and email from Dr. Legere stating the same thing.
Hayungs said his purpose for being in court was to propose a private-public partnership with Hays County in order to provide services to help the health department monitor the underserved members of the community.
Tammy Crumley, Director of Countywide Operations, said she didn’t fully know what Hayungs program offered; however, he focused on Medicare and Medicaid patients, which was not something the Hays County Health Department worked with.
“We’re strictly an indigent program, and the clients fall outside that program,” Crumley said. “They don’t qualify for Medicare and Medicaid.”
In the April announcement, MDBox first marketed their services as “In-home COVID-19 testing kits,” that “county residents could purchase from HEB.”
However, the announcement was later amended to state the tests had to be performed by a trained medical professional at pop-up clinics and that MDBox offered “In-home monitoring for COVID-19.”
“Your company came in here on the [April] 7th at a severe disadvantage, and that may have had nothing to do with you,” Smith told Hayungs, “And I apologize for that on a personal level if you had absolutely nothing to do with that.”
Smith explained whenever he saw someone say they had an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for in-home use “when every single thing the FDA had put out said there was no such product” he was concerned.
Smith played a clip from a presentation and showed a copy of a document signed by Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra on county letterhead stating that was given to Harris County officials by MRG Medical and pointed out discrepancies with statements made about the EUAs issued by the Hays County Judge and county health officials.
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Due to the quality of the document above, which could not be improved, readers may find it difficult to read. For full verbiage of the document, see below:
To Whom It May Concern
Due to the declared national emergency and the spread of Coronavirus, it is our goal to enact public health measures to provide social distancing and prevent patients from going to offices, clinics, emergency rooms, and hospitals for low activity symptoms where they may spread and or contract disease.
This letter is to express the immediate allowance of an FDA exemption and Emergency Use Authorization (“EUA”) for Relient Immune Diagnostics, Inc. to provide in-home diagnostic tests for Strep, Flu, Urinary Tract Infections, and Covid-19 in the context of a machine vision telemedicine solution to ensure patient outcome monitoring. Respectfully, Ruben Becerra, Hays County Judge
.Harris County PIA MD BOX_Redacted-8-14-2020