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

REPRIEVE FOR BETTER PATIENT CARE

(Toronto) The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has made a last minute extension for discussions on a new arrangement for the province’s community medical laboratories today, until the end of January. Previously it appeared certain a deal that would have been poor for the province’s community patients was to be pushed through the day before Christmas.

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.”

Community Patients Pay Price of Corporate Laboratory Control

For immediate release

Ontarians should be very concerned that thousands of patients are about to have their access to essential medical health services restricted by the needs of large private corporations, said Gerard Kennedy, spokesperson for the Ontario Coalition for Lab Reform (OCLR).

Lifelabs announced earlier this week the pending shutdown of 15 public service locations for community medical laboratory testing, as well as the ending of services to 11 other community test service locations across the province, contrary to a public promise made at the time of their 2013 takeover of CML Laboratories. It is also cutting hours at 53 further locations and laying off over 125 staff in Ontario. Lifelabs is guaranteed the same 62% of the province-wide OHIP payment for this service regardless. An estimated 500,000 visits from 180,000 community patients could be disrupted.

“Patients will lose services not because of government cutbacks, but rather company choice” said Kennedy “Our coalition members would be glad to replace the very same services that are being withdrawn for the same price but we are not currently allowed to do so.”

OCLR members have heard from physicians from various Toronto area locations threatened with the loss of lab services that are very concerned for their patients’ wellbeing. In one case, a group ob-gyn doctors feel their patients will be at risk without the benefit of their integrated ultrasound and other diagnostic services for their pregnancies. “Lack of timely testing and possibly even missed testing will result in decreased medical care” says Dr. Georgina Wilcock an ob-gyn in a clinic of over 15 doctors at 1920 Ellesmere Road. In a second in Etobicoke, patients will be forced to travel an additional 3.4 kilometres.

“We need a public debate on community medical laboratory reform” said Kennedy who is also CEO of Alpha Laboratories “Funding should follow the patient, and the patients’ needs should be at the centre of public healthcare decisions, not the requirements of large private corporations.”

The Ontario Coalition for Lab Reform is a group of owner operated medical laboratories, non-profit laboratory organizations, laboratory professionals, healthcare providers, and allied health services.

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For more information, please contact Krystyna Mularczyk at (647)-292-0423

Download Press Release

FACT SHEET: Bad Labs in Ontario – Waiting Too Long

Bad Labs Study

Preliminary results show 8 of the 55 GTA official lab centres inspected in October, 2013 are providing substandard treatment to visiting patients, or 1 in 7.
  • Waits at these centres are 1.5 to 2 hrs, 3 to 4 times the maximum justifiable 30 minute wait- plus-test time
  • Overcrowding means lineups spill into hallways or even out of doors
  • Consistent understaffing compounds wait and turnaround times
  • 3 other centres had other extraordinary issues, such as no disability access

Download the PDF of the report here.

Public Brief on the proposed Mega Lab to Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Position

The proposed takeover of CML by LifeLabs to create a giant corporate Mega Lab should be rejected by the Ontario government as contrary to the public interest for its potential negative impacts on patients and on sustainable healthcare. Significant concerns of access, quality, and value for laboratory tests need to be addressed by good health policy, and not left to private stock market transactions. At minimum, public hearings must be held to understand the impacts of the proposed take-over. We are asking the Minister, who has broad powers to decide license ownership, terms and conditions, including market share, “in the public interest” to take the time to consider the prospects for:

  • longer waits and greater distances for patients
  • lost opportunity to get appropriate testing, quality and cost benefits from managed fair competition
  • Inefficiencies and inconvenience for doctors and other health providers
  • Excess control and public trust vested in a very large unaccountable private sector entity
  • Higher prices and/or lower services from the high costs and loss of diverse industry activity and insight
  • Negative impact on the government’s stated intentions for laboratory reform and wider health sector reform

Read more Public Brief on the proposed Mega Lab to Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Coalition Calls for Reform to Eliminate ‘Bad Labs’ in Ontario

For immediate release
October 28, 2013

(Queen’s Park, Toronto) Ontarians now have an uneven patchwork of access then it comes to vital community medical lab testing, depending on what neighbourhood or community they live in, says a preliminary report by the Ontario Coalition for Lab Reform (OCLR) released at Queen’s Park today.

“Some people are being forced to wait for two hours or more to get this simple procedure, while others are able to get it done in only 15 minutes” said Coalition Spokesperson Gerard Kennedy, also the CEO of Alpha Laboratories. “There is no acceptable reason why there should be lineups like this – neither the people affected or the government should stand for some labs making more money at their expense.”

The Coalition estimates more than at least 1 in 7 community patients are stuck with a ‘bad lab’, which province-wide would mean over 1 million Ontarians each year, while 180,000 fled bad labs without getting tested due to overly long wait times. Read more Coalition Calls for Reform to Eliminate ‘Bad Labs’ in Ontario

Competition Bureau Helpless to Stop Highest Concentration of Private Community Medical Lab Service in North America

For Immediate Release
August 26, 2013

(Toronto) The federal Competition Bureau’s decision not to stop a takeover that would give Ontario the highest private concentration of community medical lab services in North America puts more pressure on the provincial government to act, said Gerard Kennedy, spokesperson for the Ontario Coalition for Lab Reform (OCLR).

The Coalition was reacting today to the recent Competition Bureau’s provision of a no­-action letter for the proposed $1.2 billion takeover of CML by Lifelabs to create a giant ‘Mega­Lab’ controlling testing for an unprecedented 2 out of 3 Ontarian’s outside hospitals.   While the Bureau does not release its reasons, “it became clear to members of the Coalition that the mega–lab benefited generously from the ‘regulated conduct defense’ or ‘the government-­made­-me-­do-­it’ clause limiting the Bureau’s authority,” Kennedy adds.

A peculiar, 15 year old Ontario regulation gives away locked­-in market shares to large private lab companies in Ontario without assurances on performance. The regulation was originally condemned by the Competition Bureau, for reasons now fully realized: access has suffered (closure of over 100 patient lab service centres); laboratories have been consolidated (from 27 to 9); and excessive profits generated for large private corporations from public funds (as high as 40%). The OCLR contends a Mega­-Lab would only worsen these trends. Read more Competition Bureau Helpless to Stop Highest Concentration of Private Community Medical Lab Service in North America

ONTARIO COALITION FOR LAB REFORM OPPOSES MEGA-LAB DEAL

For Immediate Release

(Toronto, ON – July 15, 2013) The proposed $1.2 billion takeover by LifeLabs of CML will turn Ontario’s two largest medical laboratory companies into a controlling “mega-lab” harmful to healthcare and should be blocked in the public interest, a new Coalition of concerned organizations told the Ontario government today.

“Too many of our sick and seniors already have to go too far or wait far too long for lab services like blood tests,” said Gerard Kennedy, spokesperson for the Ontario Coalition for Lab Reform (OCLR) and CEO of Alpha Healthcare/Alpha Laboratories, Ontario’s 4th largest community medical laboratory. “Ontarian’s need to know that the Mega-Lab will further dilute the quality and availability of their test services.”

“It is no coincidence that this deal comes now just when the government was in the midst of addressing the situation,” Kennedy added, referring to a months-long government lab system reform process. “This is a bold attempt to pre-empt government’s decision making, and a grab for big corporate control over the most common medical procedure for Ontarian’s.” Read more ONTARIO COALITION FOR LAB REFORM OPPOSES MEGA-LAB DEAL