Government Move to Privatize Lab Services Ignores Evidence

December 11, 2013

Alberta Health Services released a Request for Proposals (RFP) today for laboratory services in the Edmonton Zone. The RFP follows an AHS announcement made in September that it would be consolidating nearly all of Edmonton's lab services into a single facility which will be run by a single for-profit corporation.

"We are disappointed that this government is bent on continuing their ideologically-driven effort to privatize an integral part of our health care system," stated Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. "This is a major change to our health care system, and it ignores the evidence that private health care does not work."

The Alberta government has admitted that the change will not save money. The move ignores mounting evidence showing major problems with public-private partnerships (P3s).

"Evidence clearly shows that contracts like this lead to decreased transparency and higher costs," said Azocar. "Private, for-profit contracts remove the ability for public input to influence and improve the system, and they minimize public oversight over the quality of our laboratory services. The priority of for-profit companies is to make money, not to provide quality health care services. This deal will see Albertans paying $3 billion to for-profit corporations - money that should be going into better public services instead of being paid out to corporate shareholders."

The current round of privatization will impact most hospital laboratory services in the Edmonton Zone, including acute care testing.

"In-hospital laboratories routinely do tests that have life or death implications for Albertans," said Azocar. "Removal of acute care testing from hospitals into for-profit private labs is irresponsible and short-sighted. Large hospitals need in-house services to minimize turn-around times - something that becomes much more difficult with the large centralized model that for-profits need to increase their profit margins."

Many Albertans, including front-line workers in laboratory services and pathologists, have opposed the government's changes. Friends of Medicare is calling on the government to accept the evidence and the will of Albertans by stopping the privatization of our public health care system. The direction of health care in Alberta should be determined not by ideology and corporate profits, but by how we can provide the best possible care to everyone. 


Background information on P3s and lab services:

"For-Profit Hospital Labs Simply Don't Work":Edmonton Journal Op-Ed by Ross Sutherland

"Who Really Bears the Risk for P3s?": Progressive Economics Forum article by Economist Toby Sanger