The future of Laboratory Services in Northern Alberta still uncertain under Budget 2019
Budget 2019 released yesterday referred only briefly to the issue of laboratory services, indicating that we will see the removal of the Edmonton Clinical Laboratory Hub project, which was set to cost $579 Million. “Budget 2019 makes no mention or addresses any moneys being allocated to a future facility or to renew much needed equipment,” indicates Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare.
While Albertans minds were fixed on the release of budget 2019, the existing leadership of Alberta Public Laboratories was suddenly removed and the name changed to Alberta Precision Laboratories. “The removal of the word ‘public’ from the organization’s name is a narrative and cultural change that signals privatization and a lack of commitment to finding public solutions, and expanding and strengthening our public health care,” states Azocar.
Albertans will have to wait once again to find out what dogmatic decision will be made by the present-day government when it comes to the delivery and ownership of this integral part of our health care system. “$23-million has already been invested in the planning and construction, not to mention the costs incurred in compensation to cancelled contractors,” says Azocar. “Albertans need a solution to our fractured and crumbling laboratory system.”
A 2017 report from the Health Quality Council of Alberta recommended the government create a provincial lab agency and information system, and found that the majority of equipment in Edmonton's public lab was obsolete and that labs themselves were outdated and cramped. In a recent news report, Albertans learned that physicians had been instructed not to buy any new equipment that couldn’t be moved or would be too expensive to move to the new facility: “As ‘shoestring inventors,’ laboratorians have been repairing outdated machines by cannibalizing parts from other broken ones.”
Minister Shandro responded that Alberta Health Services is responsible for making equipment purchasing decisions. “While politicians and government agencies play the blame game, Albertans must wait for this important service on which physicians rely when making 70% of their treatment decisions,” says Azocar.
Friends of Medicare are calling on this government and Health Minister Shandro to be transparent and honest with Albertans regarding the future of our laboratory services.
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