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

MAKE LAB TESTS MATTER! – MEDIA LINKS

Recent media coverage of immediate calls for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to make its labs strategy public so that Ontario patients can ensure they are protected is available through the following links:

 

TV Broadcast

GLOBAL NEWS — Medical labs need new deal, more competition

“The CEO of one of Ontario’s oldest, and smaller medical laboratories says the province needs to fix the lab system. Gerard Kennedy says the duopoly that allows two companies to bill for more than 90 per cent of tests is out of date and needs an overhaul. Sean O’Shea reports.” (Dec 19)

VIEW NOW: https://globalnews.ca/video/3926010/medical-labs-need-new-deal-more-competition

 

CITYNEWS — Lab industry in need of overhaul, say critics

“Gerard Kennedy, CEO of Alpha Laboratories, says the system is currently operating as a legal laboratory cartel run by LifeLabs and DynaCare. The two companies have agreements to perform 90 per cent of community testing in Ontario. ‘We’re 18 years working under a system that doesn’t put patients first,’ Kennedy said.” (Dec 22)

VIEW NOW: http://toronto.citynews.ca/2017/12/22/lab-industry-need-overhaul-say-critics/

 

Online

TVO.org — There’s a lot we don’t know about Ontario’s private medical labs

“Private companies carry out almost half of all lab tests in Ontario — one group is fighting to make them more transparent and accountable” (Dec 18)

READ NOW: https://tvo.org/article/current-affairs/the-next-ontario/theres-a-lot-we-dont-know-about-ontarios-private-medical-labs

GROUP CALLS TO END TO GOVT FAVOURS FOR LEGAL LARGE LABORATORY CARTEL

(Toronto) A healthcare advocacy group is calling for the end of special privileges for the private oligopoly that controls 90% of community medical testing in Ontario.

At a media conference at Queen’s Park this morning, Ontario Coalition for Lab Reform (OCLR) Spokesperson, Gerard Kennedy, also CEO of Alpha Healthcare, said “the needs of community patients have been sacrificed for unaccountable big private interests for far too long.”

LifeLabs closing 15 patient labs, three testing facilities in bid to reduce costs – CTV News

LifeLabs, the largest medical lab provider in Ontario, is closing patient labs in 15 communities along with testing facilities in Ottawa, London and Thorold.

Hours of operation are also being cut at 53 locations, the company said in a questions and answers document posted on its website. The company said it is eliminating a total of 122 jobs.

“Over the last several years, we have demonstrated tremendous efficiency by managing a growing volume of patients resulting in service and inflationary pressures while at the same time operating within a constrained fiscal environment,” reads a statement signed by LifeLabs president and CEO Sue Paish.

Read the full article on CTVnews.ca

LifeLabs to close 15 patient service centres – Toronto Star

Hours of operation to be reduced at 53 other sites in province’s biggest lab chain.

Ontario’s largest medical laboratory company is shedding more than 100 staff and closing the doors of 15 patient service centres that collect and process patient samples such as blood and urine.

Toronto-based LifeLabs announced last week its plan to also reduce hours of operations at 53 other collection sites. Laboratory testing facilities in Thorold, London and Ottawa — where samples are analyzed — will close.

“While these kinds of operational decisions are never easy, we believe they are necessary,” LifeLabs CEO Sue Paish wrote on the company’s website. Most of the closures will take place in March and April.

Read Full Article at TheStar.com

Local LifeLabs Not Impacted By Cuts – Blackburn News

The Sarnia area’s two LifeLabs locations will not be impacted by downsizing announced by the Toronto-based company.

LifeLabs announced last week it will shed more than 100 staff and close 15 patient centres in Ontario.

The medical laboratory company also announced 53 of its collection sites will see hours of operation reduced.

In an email to BlackburnNews.com, LifeLabs Communications Manager Stephanie Sayer confirms local service centres on Exmouth St. in Sarnia and on Mara St. in Point Edward will not be affected.

She says there are no impacts “in terms of either consolidations or reduced hours.”

It’s expected most of the closures will take place in March and April, including testing facilities in London, Thorold and Ottawa.

The cuts come less than three years after LifeLabs acquired Mississauga-based CML Healthcare Inc. for $1.2-billion.

Read the full article on BlackburnNews.com

LifeLabs shutting down 15 patient centres in Ontario, laying off 100 employees – CP24.com

A company that provides medical laboratory services is shutting down 15 patient services centres across the province.

In an open letter posted to its website, LifeLabs says it is consolidating patient service centres that are located near one another. Hours of operation are also being reduced at 53 other patient service centres where patients go to give blood and urine samples and have other testing done.

As part of the company’s consolidation efforts, testing facilities in Thorold, London and Ottawa will also be shut down. Samples previously sent to those facilities for testing will be sent to other Ontario facilities now, the company says.

Read the full article at CP24.com

 

100 Staff and 15 Patient Centres Lost as Ontario’s LifeLabs Executes Consolidation – News 880am

We’ve learned some more concrete numbers in the scaling down of the biggest medical laboratory company in Ontario.

Life Labs is reducing staff by about 100 and closing 15 patient centres in what a news release from the company calls a consolidation.

On February 23, Toronto’s LifeLabs posted a restructuring notice on it’s website, stating that testing facilities in Thorold, London and Ottawa would be casualties.

Read the full article on inews880.com

Thorold Life Lab among those slated to close in province wide cutback – News Talk 610 CKTB

Thorold Life Labs are among the sites named in the closure of some labs from Ontario’s largest medical labratory company.

Toronto-based Life Labs announcing it is shedding more than 100 staff and closing the doors of 15 patient service centres that collect and process patient samples.

Sites in Thorold, London and Ottawa are set to close.

Read the full article on News Talk 610cktb.com

Mysterious medical lab closings leave surviving labs struggling – Orangeville Citizen

The recent unexplained closure of three medical laboratories in Dufferin has led to increased patient volumes at two remaining labs and long wait times for those requiring services.

The two remaining labs – one in Orangeville, the other in Shelburne owned by the same firm – have been a lot busier since other labs in the area shut down. Patients in Orangeville are waiting about two hours for blood work, while those in Shelburne are waiting upwards of an hour on an average day.

Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones is hoping to bring much needed medical laboratory services back to the riding. She brought up the matter last week at Queen’s Park, asking Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long Term Care, to restore funding to physician services in the budget. The government cuts in this area, she said, are resulting in cuts to essential services which people in Orangeville and across the province rely on.

Read the full article at citizen.on.ca

LifeLabs to close 15 patient service centres – TheRecord.com

Hours of operation to be reduced at 53 other sites in province’s biggest lab chain

TORONTO — Ontario’s largest medical laboratory company is shedding more than 100 staff and closing the doors of 15 patient service centres that collect and process patient samples such as blood and urine.

Toronto-based LifeLabs announced earlier this week its plan to also reduce hours of operations at 53 other collection sites. Laboratory testing facilities in Thorold, London and Ottawa — where samples are analyzed — will close.

“While these kinds of operational decisions are never easy, we believe they are necessary,” LifeLabs chief executive officer Sue Paish wrote on the company’s website Tuesday. A majority of the closures will take place in March and April.

In an interview, Paish said the changes are part of an efficiency effort to cope with mounting costs, cutbacks in government funds and a higher volume of patients.

Read the full article on TheRecord.com

@HealthyDebate.ca : Ontario’s private outpatient lab sector needs overhaul, say critics

Ontario’s system for funding private medical laboratories has been controversial since it was set up almost two decades ago.

Now, facing critics who have only gotten louder, the government may be considering reform. In her mandate letter after last year’s election, Premier Kathleen Wynne asked Health Minister Eric Hoskins to “explore opportunities to optimize quality and value in community laboratories.”

‘Community’ or ‘outpatient’ lab tests are ordered by doctors and nurse practitioners and include everything from blood sugar to kidney function to pregnancy tests. Across Canada, there are many different models for delivering these tests, involving public and for-profit providers.

In Ontario, a set number of government dollars is divided among seven companies. (The Ministry of Health hasn’t licensed a new private outpatient lab provider since the 1970s.) The government pays each company per test but decides the maximum amount of money each corporation can receive in a year. This cap is based on the company’s market share in 1996. We spoke to four laboratory executives and all said they always exceed their cap. >>Read the article at HealthyDebate.ca

Mega-lab merger would hurt patients, taxpayers, says Gerard Kennedy – The Star

A coalition of small medical laboratories is trying to block the creation of a “mega-lab,” warning it would be a bad deal for patients and taxpayers

A coalition of small medical laboratories, led by former Liberal leadership contender Gerard Kennedy, is trying block the creation of a “mega-lab” in Ontario, warning it would be a bad deal for patients and taxpayers.

The group wants the province to reject a proposed $1.2-billion takeover of CML Healthcare by LifeLabs, a deal it warns would turn what are already two of the largest labs in Ontario into a virtual monopoly.

“It would shortchange taxpayers” and be harmful to health care, said Kennedy. In February, the former MP and MPP became CEO of Alpha Healthcare/Alpha Laboratories, one of the members of the coalition.

Read the full article on TheStar.com