PROVINCE SET TO GIVE PRIVATE MEDICAL LABORATORY CARTEL SECRET $3.7 BILLION, SIX YEAR DEAL

February 1, 2018

(Toronto) First Beer, then Bread and now a cartel for Medical Laboratory Tests. The Ontario government is set to re-establish control by a cartel of privately owned companies over the province’s community medical laboratory testing under public healthcare for the next six years, despite overwhelming evidence it will be at the expense of patients and taxpayers, according to the Ontario Coalition for Lab Reform (OCLR). The surprise move could take place as early as today.

The decision to confirm the cartel’s control will break previous government promises to provide competition between laboratories so patients and healthcare providers can have a choice of better testing, according to OCLR spokesperson, Gerard Kennedy, who is also CEO of Alpha Laboratories.

“This secret deal is an abdication of government responsibility for patient care” said Kennedy. “It will deny some Ontario patients access to places to have blood and other specimens taken, where and when they need it. It will permit private company imperatives to prevail over patient needs such as home visits and getting their critical results in as short a time as possible. That’s simply not right.”

The OCLR is calling on the government to make all the terms of the deal public immediately and to agree to have them reviewed by the Financial Accountability Office and by the Competition Bureau of Canada before it is signed. The OCLR is asking key healthcare organizations, individual physicians and nurse practitioners who depend on community medical testing every day, and concerned members of the public to support a public review by making their views known to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins, and to their local MPPs.

Between 1998 and 2017, the legal private cartel was able to reduce patient-facing services by one-half and still be paid more for their efforts by the provincial government. Payments are an estimated $622 million in 2017-18. The OCLR calculates going forward that, over the life of the deal, community testing will cost the province an extra $300 million more than it should because of concessions the government is making to the largest laboratories compared to readily available alternatives. Ontario patients report higher rates of problems with laboratory testing than most other provinces and other countries.

The two largest laboratory companies have been allowed to control over 93% of community medical laboratory testing in Ontario. Independent SME laboratories, such as Toronto’s Alpha Laboratories and Ottawa’s Bio-Test Laboratory, will not be allowed to offer better services in areas that need them.

A December 2017 report by the Auditor General confirmed that most key decisions over patient services were being made by private laboratory companies and not by the Ministry of Health.

Ironically, in adopting this approach, the Wynne government will be repeating most of the elements of a controversial policy brought in “temporarily” by the Harris administration 20 years ago. “It was wrong then, but it is even more wrong today when we know how much harm it can cause,” adds Kennedy.

Some 8 million Ontarians have 19 million requisitions completed at Ontario’s community medical laboratories each year, making it the second most-utilized health service after doctor visits. Medical tests are a factor in 80% of medical decisions to diagnose, monitor or treat diseases and conditions.

The Ontario Coalition for Lab Reform (OCLR) was formed in 2013 to advocate for improved service for community patients, higher standards for community laboratories, stronger government oversight, and fair competition in ways that would benefit public healthcare. Its members include independent private laboratories, related laboratory service organizations and concerned healthcare professionals.

For more information, please contact: Christine Pierroz, (416) 948-2166,
media@labreform.ca, www.labreform.ca