The United Conservative Party is moving forward with privatizing laboratory services in the province.
The announcement, made on Jan. 27, comes on the heels of AHS stating it will begin looking for third party food service providers in some hospital settings and the ongoing transition to out-of-house laundry services.
DynaLIFE Medical Labs will begin delivering community laboratory services across the province, starting July 1, 2022.
According to Minister of Health Jason Copping, contracting routine community lab work to DynaLIFE is expected to generate savings and enhance services for Albertans. The money saved, he says, will be used to support other priorities and services.
“Partnering with DynaLIFE is an innovative solution that will build upon the success of Alberta’s provincially integrated lab system, which has proven to be one of the best of its kind in North America,” said Copping.
Approximately 65 per cent of provincial lab work, or 50 million tests per year, is generated from the community and will be delivered by DynaLIFE under contract to AHS.
The contract will include operating patient service centres and mobile collection facilities in urban centres and large rural communities including Red Deer and Camrose.
DynaLIFE will be responsible for laboratory testing of all community and non-urgent hospital lab work across the province.
The exception will be small and rural communities that currently handle less than 25,000 community blood test collections per year. Services for those communities will continue to be provided by APL.
Reaction so far seems to be doubtful the change will be a positive move.
“The DynaLIFE deal rewards a large corporation and its shareholders over the current and long-term interests of Albertans,” said Rebecca Graff-McRae in new report released from the Parkland Institute.
The report, “Misdiagnosis – Privatization and Disruption in Alberta’s Medical Laboratory Services,” evaluates the proposal through data from several sources.
“(The proposal) offers false economies, minimal savings, a smaller and demoralized workforce, a massive infrastructure deficit, and a fragmented system with little accountability,” said Graff-McRae.
The Parkland Institute questions the validity of the promised cost savings, as it says AHS and the Ministry of Health would not release the full cost-benefit analysis.
“Despite the government’s blatant lack of transparency, however, an analysis of available financial data suggests that the cost savings are far less than claimed by the province,” stated the institute in the release.
“The government predicated their plan for laboratory services on the review of AHS conducted by Ernst & Young, which claimed potential savings of $102 million per year. Those claims, however, are directly contradicted by AHS’ own internal calculations, which suggest savings of $18 to 36 million at most.”
While AHS has assured that no job losses are anticipated as a result of the transition process, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), which represents 6,000 lab workers in the province, said it’s not that simple.
DynaLIFE has agreed to assume all unionized, non-unionized and medical-scientific staff under existing collective agreements (where applicable). They are to provide the same, or similar, terms and conditions of employment as existing prior to the transfer.
“Assurances of no job losses and that lab professionals will continue to be represented by HSAA is good news,” said HSAA president Mike Parker.
“There are three things we need to know for our members and for Albertans. First, what happens to pensions? Our members in the public system have them, our private members don’t. Our workers without pensions must have the opportunity to get them and those with pensions in place must be assured that they will be kept whole.
“Second, what exactly is included in this transfer? Albertans and lab professionals deserve to know how lab services will be impacted.
“Third, how much public money is going to guaranteed profit for DynaLIFE? The province must release contract details so Albertans can see how much of their money is going to profits instead of patient care.”
DynaLIFE has provided community lab services in Edmonton and several communities in AHS’s North Zone for more than 25 years.
“We look forward to working with AHS and APL on our plans that include much-needed upgrades and expansion of patient service centres and laboratory testing facilities in many of Alberta’s largest and fastest-growing communities,” said DynaLIFE’s president and CEO Jason Pincock.