Ontario currently operates community medical laboratories under a unique Guaranteed Market Share payment system put in place in 1998. The system fixes the annual income of each lab company by market share in advance, all but eliminating competition and the incentive to improve patient service. The result has been a shrinking number of players in the Lab test marketplace as a result of extensive takeovers. Since 2008, the number of community lab patient care centres have dropped by 25%, while the population has grown nearly 20%. Over the past five years, nearly 100 such locations in Ontario have closed. Ontario now has 50 per cent fewer lab centres per capita than BC or Quebec.
In October of last year, the OCLR released its preliminary study of 55 official lab centres that found that one in seven of Ontario’s patients are under-served, with many waiting up to two hours for their tests, facing over-crowding, extended lineups in hallways or out of doors, and understaffing that compounded wait times for results.
According to a survey conducted by the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) in 2010:
- 61 per cent of doctors report that their practice has been affected by closures and reduced hours of service
- 81 per cent reported patients who had to travel increased distances due to lab closures
- 71 per cent had patients experiencing longer wait times
- 45% had patients not going for prescribed testing at all due to excessive waits times
Benefits of Lab Reform could include:
- Establish greater public transparency and stronger oversight of Ontario’s community lab system
- Deliver the highest standard of care and access to prescribed medical testing to Ontario patients at no increased cost to the Ontario Health Care system
- Achieve health care savings through the adoption of newer testing procedures and a modernized payment model for community labs
- Embrace non-profit service providers and Ontario’s community hospitals as partners in the delivery of laboratory testing to patients, as they are elsewhere in Canada
- Result in greater patient choice for laboratory testing services
- Provide a framework for innovative new tests to be evaluated
- Encourage more communication with physicians regarding test results and testing protocols