(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.
The report Bad Labs in Ontario – Waiting Too Long shows photographs taken in recent weeks of long lineups of lab patients spilling out of waiting rooms into in hallways and even out of doors. The group conducted visits and interviews at 55 community lab locations in the GTA as the first phase of a province-wide study project. The project turned up 8 ‘bad labs’ with wait times of one and a half to two hours as well as three others that were highly problematic for other reasons. The report identifies how flaws with the provincial guaranteed remuneration system and lack of oversight, work to actually encourage service cutbacks by the larger corporate labs that now dominate most Ontario communities.
“There are many serious health issues that are difficult to fix but this shouldn’t be one of them “ said Kris Bailey, CEO of non-profit In-Common Laboratories and a recognized expert on community and hospital labs. “Rural areas have this problem in spades and we need to stop discriminating against non- profits and hospitals and let them be part of the solution”.
“It makes me pretty upset to know that I have to wait for two hours every time, when the lab companies are being paid enough to get me in and out much sooner” said Alice Lee, a young expectant mother from Richmond Hill. I see older people who are extremely uncomfortable and last time I went someone fainted from the long wait”.
The Coalition is calling on all Ontarians receiving poor community lab service to contact www.badlabs.ca as well as their MPPs. Later this week there will also be a 1-888-BAD-LABS hotline.
The Coalition is also challenging MPPs to drop in on local community labs to speak to patients as well as consult local doctors.
“Some patients won’t go to labs anymore. I direct my patients to the labs but many will refuse to go, saying they can’t stand the two hour wait” said Dr. Gerald Kirsh, a family medicine physician in Scarborough.
“It is long overdue that this problem was addressed” said Dr. Arthur Kushner also a family doctor, from Etobicoke.“ We have known for years that far too many patients with chronic health problems and the elderly are not able to obtain optimal medical management of their health problems, simply because their inability to access lab services in their community.”
The Coalition presented its reform plan for a new ‘Patient Choice’ system that would compel community labs to compete with one another to provide patients with better service, lets the Ministry of Health get best value from an updated pricing system and set up stronger provincial oversight and standards, at a savings to government. “This may be the only time the government hears from healthcare organizations asking to be allowed to do more for less,” added Kennedy.
The Ontario Coalition for Lab Reform is made up of two smaller Ontario owner operated labs; Alpha Laboratories and Bio-test Laboratory, each with 42 years of experience, as well as non-profit In-Common Laboratories that acts as a broker with hospital labs in Ontario and across Canada and Med-Ex Health Services that provides specimen collection services to seniors residences, together with individual doctors, lab technologists, and concerned individuals.
For more information or copies of report, please contact Mike Sung, 416-689-2166 or msung@OCLR.ca.