Ontario Health Coalition

Ontario Health Coalition

February 02, 2012 15:56 ET

Laboratory Service Cuts for Seniors and Residents of Rural Algoma, Northern Ontario "Bizarre": Health Coalition

SAULT STE. MARIE, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 2, 2012) -

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Under budget constraints, and forced to make cutbacks, the Sault Area Hospital axed laboratory services on St. Joseph Island and in Thessalon. This cut means that patients would be forced to drive more than 80 kilometers, regardless of inclement weather and dangerous roadways, to access laboratory testing at a private for-profit lab in Sault Ste. Marie.

After media exposure and public response, the LHIN and private lab announced today a temporary plan that would provide a one-hour window, once per week, in which patients in Thessalon and on St. Joseph Island could have their blood taken in their own regions by the for-profit laboratory company. Deemed an "interim service" by the government-appointees in the LHIN, it is not clear what the permanent resolve will be. Protests against the cuts to blood testing for seniors, pregnant women and disabled people have been held at Matthews Memorial Hospital on St. Joseph Island.

"The temporary solution to provide blood services in Thessalon and on St. Joseph Island is embarrassment to our province and shows how broken the system is," said Ross Sutherland, chair of the Ontario Health Coalition. "There is perfectly reasonable solution: allow the hospital to take the blood as it always has. Providing these services in local hospitals provides good access for patients and makes efficient use of public resources."

"The extra cost and inconvenience of setting up temporary, privatized blood-taking stations only panders to a Ministry of Health Policy to give more money -- and therefore more profits paid for by public taxes - to Lifelabs corporation," noted Sutherland, a registered Nurse who recently completed a Master's degree on Ontario's laboratory reform. "There is no reason except corporate influence on the Ministry that this bizarre result is taking place."

"It is time the government made a commitment to using the LHINs and public resources to integrate care and provide the best advantage of patients: open the hospitals to community patients for laboratory tests," Sutherland concluded.

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