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North Island Hospital clinical pathology lab work threatened by VIHA, sign the petition
As a result of changes made by the Vancouver Island Health Authority to lab services in the Campbell River hospital the lab itself is in peril and the lab at the Comox Valley Hospital is also in danger.
The lab is integral to the functioning of the hospital, essential for diagnoses to allow the hospital to deliver the care that patients need. The staff in the lab include medical lab assistants, laboratory technologists, and pathologists.
The pathologists are the doctors that analyse and interpret the results of clinical (blood and body fluids) and anatomical (tissue samples) tests. The functioning of the lab depends on all the staff working together as a team to provide timely accurate results that determine treatment.
Both North Island hospitals were built with labs equipped and staffed to do the same level of work that was done in the old hospitals, except microbiology.
The removal of microbiology is itself interesting.
In the planning of the new hospitals, up to and including the awarding of the contract to the consortium which built the hospitals, both labs included full microbiology services. It was not until months later that lab staff were informed by VIHA that there would be no microbiology in the new hospitals. Unfortunately there is a significant history of deception on the part of the VIHA in dealing with both the local hospital boards, health care staff and the public.
How our labs function
All five pathologists in our two North Island hospitals are general pathologists, but they are, for now, treated differently by VIHA.
The old Campbell River Hospital was owned and operated by VIHA, while St. Joseph’s General Hospital was an affiliate owned and operated by the Catholic Diocese of Victoria. So the contracts between VIHA and the Pathologists — there are two in Campbell River and three in the Comox Valley — are different.
The Comox Valley contract prohibits VIHA from removing clinical pathology from the Comox Valley Hospital until next year when the contracts expire. VIHA has said it intends to move all clinical pathology from both hospitals to Victoria, where it will be done by the Vancouver Island Clinical Pathology Consulting Corporation (VICPCC).
Why move testing to Victoria?
The removal of services from the North Island began in 2014. A group of Pathologists in Victoria formed VICPCC and VIHA awarded them all the clinical pathology work that had previously been done at the Campbell River Hospital.
The move of clinical testing to Victoria and VIHA’s failure to fund the Campbell River hospital for a third full-time pathologist faces massive opposition from the lab staff, 75 Campbell River doctors, the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board, Mt. Waddington Health Network, Campbell River City Council, Citizens for Quality Health Care and the public, and all but one of the North Island Pathologists.
Why? Shipping tests to Victoria for interpretation greatly increases the turnaround time between when the blood, CSF (Cerebrospinal fluid) or urine sample is taken at the CR lab and when the local doctor gets the results. This is extremely problematic in urgent, emergent and life threatening situations.
The other consequence, equally problematic, is that lab staff and local doctors who, in deciding which tests to perform, or facing other questions when preparing samples for the pathologists, no longer have a pathologist in the hospital that they can consult.
So consultation is done by phone or email, and those who need answers often wait hours or days for responses that they could have gotten in minutes from an on-site pathologist. VIHA says this delay is justified because “specialists” are analyzing tests.
The problem is that “specialist” is not a synonym for “better.” In this instance the opposite is the case. The pathologists in the North Island hospitals are highly trained general pathologists with many years’ experience in doing the clinical and anatomical pathology testing which is required by North Island patients.
The way the labs function is that those tests that require the attention of a specialist are sent to Victoria or Vancouver or wherever the specialists are located. This allows the lab staff to process tests in the most timely manner and for the lab assistants, lab technologists and pathologists to support and assist one another as needed.
An example: Recently a lab assistant needed advice from a pathologist on appropriate procedures for blood tests ordered for a patient who was being tested for leukemia and other possible disorders. With the patient waiting in the lab, the lab assistant called Victoria for advice. The response to her phone call was that she should send an email to Victoria, which she did.
The patient returned to the lab twice that day for a response but three weeks later there had still not been a response from Victoria to the lab tech or the patient.
Before clinical pathology was moved to Victoria, the lab assistant would have had immediate access to the pathologist at the hospital.
Ironically, the pathologist is still there, just a two-minutes walk for the lab assistant, but she is not permitted to ask him.
At Sept. 19 meeting, the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board heard a presentation from Dr. David Robertson, Executive Medical Director GEO One (North Island) speaking for VIHA in which he justified the changes on the grounds that it is better for patients to have tests interpreted by specialists.
I attended that meeting and was appalled at how disrespectfully the board members were treated by Robertson.
Robertson presented a powerpoint explaining VIHA’s plans for the labs, complete with a graph “proving” better turnaround on tests sent to Victoria. It is a falsified graph, which was proven false over two years ago.
Robertson made no effort to explain VIHA’s plan in terms that non-medical professionals could possibly understand, although that is entirely possible to do.
While he was speaking board members were given a different powerpoint, a presentation made earlier in the month to Campbell River Council by the one North Island pathologist who agrees with the VIHA plan. The distribution of that doctor’s powerpoint (a presentation not even addressed to their board), during Robertson’s presentation, created maximum confusion.
The upshot was that, 1) it was so unclear that board members started asking Robertson questions related to the document which they had just received, thinking it was his when he had never even seen it; and, 2) the impression was created that all that is going on is some kind of professional disagreement between the two pathologists at the Campbell River hospital, which board members, reasonably so, want nothing to do with.
What should be done?
VIHA is trying to present this new model as “better” because “specialists” will do all the clinical pathology testing.
We see this as the equivalent to arguing that seventh graders will receive better teaching from a Ph.D in mathematics, online, than an appropriately trained middle school teacher in the classroom.
They won’t. A trained middle school teacher has the skill set appropriate to the work; in addition, the middle school teacher can teach other subjects whereas the Ph.D math teacher cannot. A general pathologist has the skill set appropriate to the work required by our hospitals and the versatility to do myriad tasks that a community hospital requires.
It makes no sense to have specialists three hours away doing the work that general pathologists on site can do. Similarly, our patients do receive the service of specialists when that is needed, specifically when a patient or their sample is moved to a tertiary center such as Victoria or Vancouver.
To send all clinical pathology to Victoria is a waste of resources on both ends.
Instead of destabilizing and degrading the capacity of the Campbell River lab, VIHA should reinstate clinical pathology and provide funding for three pathologists so that there is adequate coverage for vacation and other leaves.
Barb Biley, a member of Citizens for Quality Health Care, is a Courtenay resident. She can be reached at email@example.com.
PETITION TO SAVE NORTH ISLAND LABS
Citizens for Quality Health Care is circulating a petition which will be presented to the legislature in November, which calls for
- Funding for three pathologists for the Campbell River hospital (currently funded for 2.4 and the work being done by 2)
- Reinstating clinical pathology service locally.
- An independent investigation into the apparent conflict of interest that resulted in the contract between VIHA and VICPCC (at the time that the contract was signed Dr. Gordon Hoag was both a shareholder in the corporation and VIHA’s Department Head for Pathology)
Copies of the petition are available and have to be returned by Nov. 14 to Lois Jarvis, 221 McLean St., Campbell River, V9W 2M4, 250-287-3096, or Barb Biley, 1868 Willemar Ave., Courtenay V9N 3M6, 250-338-3149.
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I did not see a way to sign this petition on Facebook . How does a person do so ? Everyone in these communities and elsewhere on the island should be signing ! Who knows when an islander could be visiting our communities and require the immediate need for our hospital lab techs . Who knows when we who call these communities our home will be the one needing our local lab techs and equipment . Our hospitals have skilled lab techs and equipment to continue providing doctors with quick feedback of lab results that are crucial to the physical and mental healthcare for all of us. This proposed change if it is successful WILL NOT be beneficial to our local communities in any way. Instead it will prolong lab test results to the doctors therefore increasing anxiety in patients as they wait for vital healthcare follow up. If the lab samples are damaged in any way during their travels to be tested It will further delay results when another lab sample is needed . Don’t eliminate skilled job opportunities in both communities thus having families pull out and moving elsewhere. It would also be a total waste of all our lab tech equipment in our hospitals which our communities have helped to provide through fund raisers and our tax dollars . These were installed in our local hospitals to be able to provide test results in an acceptable timely matter. All this change for what ? Who benefits ? I say this is a prime opportunity for the gov’t who fights for the rights of us Islanders to show us why we voted for them ! If they don’t keep the economies alive and well in all parts of the island by sustaining crucial services where they are that exist now and In the future then what do these smaller than Victoria communities have to offer to keep Vancouver Island Alive and well ? Please Keep the skilled lab techs and equipment where they are in Comox valley and Campbell River hospitals and let them continue to provide crucial , efficient and quick care to the communities they serve.
I would like to correct my comment. I spoke too soon and should have read the problem more clearly. We are not losing our lab techs which I’m glad about. However, I hope we can get the funding necessary for a 3rd pathologist for the valley and North Island. Please keep our pathologists in our local hospitals so we can get the test results we need as quickly as possible in order for our physicians to start treatment. 2 pathologists is not enough for this large area of the Island. Please quit taking our vital services and moving them to Victoria just to save a buck if that’s what its about. Thank you.
Let’s utilize the labs and staff we already have in our area. Sending it to Victoria and delaying our test results? Why? We already are highly taxed for services. Let’s have them.
Reading the article I’m still unsure the rational for the move. People above have mentioned cost, but that didn’t seem to be outlined in the presentation you visited. They seemed to reference quicker turnaround times (which I agree is asinine). I’d like a more complete picture of the cost to the hospital to have a micro lab and the techs to run it. I’m sure those costs could be offset by working with the college, using interns, providing training or something. It still costs money to ship sensitive samples down island, and then perform the analyses. I don’t understand the idea of decreasing the numbers of skilled technicians/pathologists at any hospital, let alone the busiest northmost island one. But what is the complete financial picture here?
What the hell, why should people from this region have to wait for results? Next thing you know we’ll have to go to Victoria for hospital visits. We were promised a complete up to date hospital in Courtenay and in Campbell River. We count too.
Apparently we don’t count, Karen. VIHA needs to be leashed.
We need there services in Campbell river. Thanks
It says copies of the petition are available, where? How can rural communities get them in time to fill them out and return them? Is there a link to an online version we can sign?
On the right hand side of the article above, are the instructions for signing the petition. You need to contact Barb Biley or Lois Jarvis at the phone numbers provided, and you can have a petition emailed to you. Due to rules governing petitions that are presented to the Legislature, online petitions are not accepted, but must be signed on a paper copy.
VIHA is being utterly ridiculous.Both Hospitals are equipped for the lab work. Moving those services is assinine at best. Let the lab workers do their job!! VIHA trying to line their pockets. Again??
Interesting article. Typical VIHA. Trying to save a buck at the expense of the client. This seems like a CDMR type way to reorganize the lab. Why not just have one northern hospital manage the micro biology with one set of general pathologist managing it. What about the environmental footprint here? All those samples have to make it to Victoria somehow. As well the lab in Victoria is already stretched to the max how can they take on this as well??
Please keep our lab testing in Campbell River, BC
Take a look around Comox! Seniors need care not roadblocks.
Is this VIHA board still the same one from the days of the BC Liberals? It sure looks like it. Still pandering to corporations. Both hospitals have serious operational flaws built in to them. Before if one area had a quiet moment and another area close by needed help they could move someone over there but not any more. you are stuck in one place no mater the emergency. the heli pad the car park not built right, had to have a major refits. I see a large waiting area next to the main entrance filed with empty chairs, a phone left on the information desk for people to use instead of a person. ( took 20 min. on hold to get a human to talk to) The selling of seniors care homes to a Chinese INVESTMENT Corporation a real smart move there. The VIHA Board refuses to learn from their past mistakes so keeps making the same ones. Time to replace them with people who will care for the people not the corporations
This is clearly a “plan” that is NOT based on evidence, research, science or any legal considerations (eg penalties when existing contracts are terminated). The NDP campaigned on ‘people before profit’ and a quality, publicly funded health care system.
Premier Horgan, Dix and our MLAs need to take swift action to get us back on track. Listen to your own words. Hear what you have written and said before.
We dont want publicly funded services of any kind to be privatized in BC. At the heart of privatization is PROFIT for a few, the owners. The result of privatization are poorer health outcomes and in the worst case scenarios, spending public dollars for higher patient mortality rates.
Where there’s political will, there’s a way to keep commitments beyond the campaign trail and make better decisions. Do your homework, review the evidence/research and your own words.
The 3P mentality is what got us into this mess in the first place. Under the BC Liberals, someone, preferably a friend of the government, has to make money from a public asset. Unfortunately VIHA continues this.
You’ve got that straight, Dianne. I have recently been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and had tests done here although some test materials had to be sent to Vancouver for analysis. I had a bone marrow biopsy last Thursday at the hospital in Comox. If VIHA gets what it wants, I would have to go to Victoria for that. So, VIHA saves money while I have to spend money to get to Victoria and I’m SICK. Travel is difficult. It looks like VIHA has lost all sense of humanity and caring for the people of the North Island and only cares about itself and its bottom line. I’m writing to all the politicians involved and am signing the petition when it comes around. I’m also contemplating some more direct action…like a demonstration in front of the hospital with the media present.
Like your demonstration idea in front of hospital. I would like to talk one on one with people and I have some paper documentation I would like to share.
The laboratory services contract being given to VICPCC hundreds of kilometers away, when there are already competent laboratory staff, equipment and pathologists on site at the C.R. Hospital is simply a matter of greed over patient well being, and patients are the ones who will suffer. Doctors who represent VIHA, who also had shares in VICPCC were the ones who signed the contract taking away laboratory services from the C.R. hospital and handed it over to VICPCC, creating a conflict of interest. When local newspapers tried to report on the story, VICPCC’s lawyers threatened to sue.
We are not receiving timely results of lab tests. Please keep labs in Campbell River.
Please have a pathologist in Campbell River. We require. A fully functionI lab.
keep it here why have a hospital built if you are not going to use the labs here. too much of a wait to send to Victoria this is all wrong.
Thanks, George and Barb.
The billionaire, psychopathic, corporate ruling class, for whom Leonard, Dix, Horgan (and all politicians) work, insist on privatizing what should be public services, as more money in their already obscenely bloated accounts is all that matters. Until we can, somehow, shit-can our fptp party (cabal) political system (corporatocracy), and adopt some form of pr, I’m afraid we’re f***ed.
Why is it that all important services we pay for are all degraded . How can people feel good about being properly cared for when the system wants to make you wait , and get sicker or die because of their ignorants . If you can’t do the job right then we should get someone that can . The one that makes these feeble decisions should be fired .
Power corrupts. As Citizens we have allowed our Government to dominate us not govern for us. It acts on it’s own behalf not ours. The cure is simple…change the government. Put the controls back into the communities and let them govern applicable to their needs. This is simply about contracting out to big corporations and somewhere a buck is being made. Our taxes will rise, we’ll be driven into poverty and the guy on the hill will live in the big house. History repeats itself. Disband VIHA. It’s not about our health anymore, it’s about power and politics.
What next are they going to do with our hospitals. I believe this just a start. Keep them in Campbell River and Courteny
Here is an Adrian Dix, John Horgan and Ronna Rae Leonard problem – privatization of medical services on their watch. Why does the new government continue with principles and practices supported by Christy Clark. Ronna rae has a 189 vote plurality in her victory last election. What if 190 people sign this petition?
Not enough to sign a petition. Call Ronna Rae, daily if necessary, until she talks to you. Explain your angst and concerns to her. Phone Adrianj and John too. they are both interested in serving all British Columbians. This is privatization by another name.
Yes, Cliff, The Clark government might have started it but that gov’t is gone. The ball has been tossed to the NDP. What was done can be undone and reworked.
But the entire community needs to make our wishes known. We deserve better so let’s ask, no demand, it.
In Campbell River it is the MLA Hon. Claire Trevena who is dropping the ball and not ensuring the community’s basic healthcare needs are being met. In my opinion, this is a good reason to start the recall process to send the NDP a message. MLA Hon. Scott Fraser and MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard have the responsibility to advocate for constituents when the Comox Valley contract comes up in March 2020.