A key component of Iowa's nation-leading performance in terms of newborn health screenings is the courier system connected to the Iowa State Hygienic Lab in Ankeny.

Central Delivery Service of Altoona has the state contract that goes to birthing centers in all 99 Iowa counties and delivers blood samples from babies to the lab for testing. This includes birth centers at the state's hospitals and where midwives practice in Iowa's Amish communities.

Ron Hardy, the owner and manager of Central Delivery Service, said there are 17 drivers on an average of 12 routes per day on weekdays along with seven routes on Saturdays and Sundays.

The longest drive is 350 miles a day, he said. Most of the drivers make from seven to 12 stops.

Health providers take the samples in the morning hours, and the couriers stop between noon and 2 p.m. daily.

Hardy, speaking on Monday afternoon, said the driver for the Quad-City area left Des Moines that morning. He made stops in Muscatine, Davenport, Bettendorf, Clinton and Silvis. The samples were driven back to Ankeny the same day, he said.

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Drivers and the managers in Altoona communicate by cellphone in the event of any route changes.

The central office staff also monitors the weather, using three websites. Last week, for example, there were ice storms in parts of Iowa. If the couriers could not make it to a hospital on that Friday, they made the pickup early Saturday, Hardy said.

All the company's drivers have a great deal of experience, he said, explaining that babies born in Red Oak and Shenandoah — on the far southwest edge of the state — get the same courier delivery service as those born in Scott County.

"We will never handle anything more important than these specimens," he added.