For many years, lab testing in Medicine Hat, Brooks and Foremost has been provided by our contractor, Medicine Hat Diagnostic Lab (MHDL).
However, as of early October, staff have been informed that a final contract between Alberta Health Services and MHDL has been agreed upon. That contract will see all lab testing transitioned from MHDL to the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital lab by March 2017.
Community collections will be maintained however it is yet to be determined who will provide that service.
The reason for the change is the need to consolidate lab testing, in a similar fashion to like-sized communities such as Lethbridge and Red Deer, for efficiencies and cost-savings. Lab testing costs in Medicine Hat are currently 20-40 per cent higher than in similar communities, in part due to duplication in areas such as testing, maintaining two computer systems, equipment, and quality assurance processes like accreditation.
The services currently offered through MHDL will be maintained. For example, individuals who have blood or other samples collected by lab staff in their own home or in a continuing care facility will continue to receive that service. Individuals who have regular blood draws to manage their chronic conditions will continue to have that care.
Most importantly, there will little or no change for patients.
Collection sites will remain in place throughout the community, including Brooks and Foremost. Only lab testing is being consolidated at MHRH; we know it is not realistic to do the volume of collection required at the hospital site.
Over the next few years, AHS will work closely with MHDL management and staff to minimize the impact of this change. We will create new positions at MHRH for lab technologists, lab assistants and clerical staff and all MHDL staff who wish to will be invited to apply for those jobs.
Everyone who applies will be fairly considered – selection will be based on the interview process, skills, and ability. It is our intention to begin conversations soon as we recognize the uncertainty is difficult for all.
The bulk of the transition of lab testing will occur in the final six months of the contract - beginning sometime in the fall of 2016. Until that time, MHDL staff in Medicine Hat, Foremost and Brooks should experience little change.
Three years, we believe, is enough time for the two organizations to work together on planning and to create a process for transition. Natural attrition and retirements are expected to lessen the impact on jobs.
MHDL has been an excellent service provider and partner of AHS and, before that, the Palliser Health Region for many years.