Government Must Stop and Reverse Privatization of Laboratory Services in the Edmonton

Since forming government our New Health Minister, Sarah Hoffman has been given the arduous task of sifting through past privatization misdeeds that will continue to haunt this new government unless they deal with them head on. In the past few weeks, and as reported by media sources, the contracting out of the Lab Services in the Edmonton and surrounding area to Sonic Healthcare have raised questions that require immediate answers.

Friends of Medicare along with laboratory front line workers and stakeholders have been fighting relentlessly to prevent the privatization of lab services in the Edmonton Area. "While negotiating this deal, the previous government completely failed to present a reasonable business and common sense case to Albertans, to explain why the privatization of this essential and integral part of our health care system was necessary, "indicates Sandra Azocar, Executive Director, Friends of Medicare.

"For years they had neglected our current public laboratory, it was left without upgrades, understaffed and under-resourced to the point that privatization was presented as the only option," said Azocar.

Health Minister Hoffman indicated yesterday that while the government took a firm position on privatization in their election platform, she also recognizes that there is a need for 'stability' in the system. It is unclear to Friends of Medicare how a deal that will result in further privatization will bring stability in the health care system. Kerry Williamson, AHS Spokesperson indicated yesterday that a "letter of intent has only been sent to Sonic Healthcare".

Privatization of health care is not a solution to a public problem. "The ethical problems of these corporations are of grave concern to Albertans because our current laws protect private corporations from the public disclosure of 'confidential business information'," said Azocar. "These private contractors will not have to disclose how our public health dollars are being spent, allocated, or collected. The corporate sector's need to increase profits always negatively impacts patient needs and safety," states Azocar

Friends of Medicare is calling on this government to disclose how far along this contract negotiation has been taken. It is the hope of Friends of Medicare that this decision can still be reversed without costs to Albertans.

"We encourage the Minister of Health to stop the privatization of this integral part of our health care system. We do not believe that the decision to privatize lab services in the Edmonton Area should be left with AHS. This body was created to oversee the delivery of health care, while the government is the one responsible for health care and public policies. Furthermore we encourage the government to make companies accountable for disclosing business information, when their profit is being made from public health dollars. All Albertans have a right to know how our health care funds are being allocated."