April 12, 2021
Health Minister's recognition of National Medical Laboratory Week falls flat
On a Sunday afternoon, Health Minister Tyler Shandro released a statement in recognition of National Laboratory Week. In his statement, he highlighted the role that medical laboratory professionals have played during this pandemic as an integral part of the province’s COVID-19 response. He encouraged Albertans to “reach out and thank a medical laboratory professional for their untold contributions in building a strong health system." But despite these empty platitudes, the minister and this government continue to move forward with the privatization of our lab services.
"It is rather cynical to thank and recognize the importance that these workers continue to have as an vital part of our health care system, all the while preparing to sell them out as soon as they complete the bidding process," says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “A more appropriate thank you after the year our medical laboratory workers and their colleagues have endured would be to publicly rescind the government’s plans to eliminate their jobs as soon as the public health emergency has been lifted.”
Even before being sworn in, this government halted the development of what was to be a new public laboratory, and eventually cancelled the project altogether. More recently, recommendations made by EY as part of their Alberta Health Services Performance Review regarding the privatization of lab services, as well as the firm’s ensuing role as "Health Contracting Secretariat," continues to pave the way for aggressive private corporate imposition on our public health care system. In December 2020, the government issued a Request for Proposals for community lab services, and we are now well on our way to putting this integral part of our health care up for grabs to the highest bidder.
With open attempts to undermine our public health care already underway, the minister’s gratitude for lab workers’ efforts rings hollow. Rather than learning from the tragic lessons that this pandemic has doled on the province, this government persists on their chosen path of ideological attack on the public system that has been there for Albertans throughout this difficult year. Thank you is not enough: rather than transferring Alberta’s public health dollars to private investors by contracting out our medical laboratories, it is imperative that we learn from the COVID-19 crisis and invest in improving and expanding our public laboratories that have proved so invaluable during this challenging time.
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