One of the last hospitals in Ontario to provide local outpatient medical laboratory testing is transferring the service to the private for-profit Lifelabs Medical Laboratory Services.
The move will save the Deep River and District Hospital money, but cost the province more and lengthen the wait for results. Its Ontario’s pay more and get less plan.
Patients will still come to the hospital to get their blood drawn and other specimens collected, but the testing will not stay in the Deep River community unless the referring doctor or nurse practitioner marks it urgent (STAT). All existing inpatient testing will remain at the hospital’s lab, which is part of the amalgamated Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association (EORLA).
Coincidentally the move comes as the hospital is expanding to consolidate physician offices on site. As the physicians come closer into the central health hub for the community, the lab testing will be conducted further from Deep River.
EORLA and Deep River and District Hospital will still have to maintain staff and laboratory facilities that could easily handle these newly outsourced and privatized tests. Deep River must have staff present 24/7 to provide inpatient and emergency testing. Instead of turning around tests “super fast” at the hospital, professional laboratory technologists, technicians and phlebotomists will have much less to do. About 70 per cent of the hospital’s present lab work is conducted for outpatients.
Each outpatient test performed by Lifelabs is paid for publicly by OHIP. While the hospitals could perform these tests for much less using surplus capacity, they are prohibited from similarly billing OHIP. Instead they are expected to provide this service out of an annual budget that has been shrinking in relation to its overall costs.