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The recent closure of laboratories in medical offices

Thursday March 22, I asked the Minister of Health about the recent closure of laboratories in medical offices in Manitoba.  This has affected many people - both patients and health professionals and has resulted in diminished quality of service for patients.  My question and two supplementary ones are below.  Sadly, the Minister of health did not answer the questions.  Below my questions is a petition on this same subject which I have presented in the Manitoba legislature.  For more on this story click on this link to the follow up CBC news item.

Question Period

Laboratory Services - Clinic Closures

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, I welcome the staff and patients from medical clinics who are here in the gallery today.
      Because of the laboratory closures in medical clinics by Dynacare, many patients, having seen their doctor, are now having to journey some distance, sometimes for 45 minutes or more, to get the blood drawn for the tests that they need.
      What measures will the government take to restore laboratory services for medical clinics and to reduce costs, travel times and delays for patients and to improve delivery of health care?
Mr. Gerrard: My question today deals with the closure of medical laboratories, which is causing a lot of delays and decreasing health-care delivery.
      What is the government going to do about these laboratory closures in medical clinics?
Mr. Gerrard: As part of the health-care changes happening in this province many laboratories in medical clinics are now being closed and this is causing a lot of problems for patients. It's causing a lot of problems for people operating in medical clinics.
      I would ask the Minister of Health: What is he going to with regard to the closure of laboratory services in many medical clinics?

Petition:

Medical Laboratory Services

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly.
      The background to this petition is as follows:
      The provision of laboratory services to medical clinics and physicians' offices has been historically, and continues to be, a private sector service.
      It is vitally important that there be competition in laboratory services to allow medical clinics to seek solutions from more than one provider to control costs and to improve service for health professionals and patients.
      Under the present provincial government, Dynacare, an Ontario-based subsidiary of a US company, has acquired Unicity labs, resulting in a monopoly situation for the provision of laboratory services in medical clinics and physicians' offices.
      With the creation of this monopoly, there has been the closure of many laboratories by Dynacare in and around the city of Winnipeg. Since the acquisition of Unicity labs, Dynacare has made it more difficult for some medical offices by changing the collection schedules of patients' specimens and charging some medical offices for collection services.
      These closures have created a situation where a  great number of patients are less well served, having to travel significant distances in some cases, waiting considerable periods of time and sometimes being denied or having to leave without obtaining lab  services. The situation is particularly critical for   patients requiring fasting blood draws, as they  may experience complications that could be life‑threatening based on their individual health situations.
      Furthermore, Dynacare has instructed that all patients requiring immediate results, STAT's patients, such as patients with suspicious internal infections, be directed to its King Edward location. This creates unnecessary obstacles for the patients who are required to travel to that lab rather than simply completing the test in their doctor's office. This new directive by Dynacare presents a direct risk to patients' health. This has further resulted in  patients opting to visit emergency rooms rather than travelling twice, which increases costs to the  public health-care system.
      Medical clinics and physicians' offices service thousands of patients in their communities and have structured their offices to provide a one-stop service, acting as a health-care front line that takes off some of the load from emergency rooms. The creation of this monopoly has been problematic to many medical clinics and physicians, hampering their ability to provide high-quality and complete service to their patients due to closures of so many laboratories.
      We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:
      (1) To urge the provincial government to request Dynacare to reopen the closed laboratories or allow Diagnostic Services of Manitoba to freely open labs in clinics which formerly housed labs that have been shut down by Dynacare.
      (2) To urge the provincial government to ensure high-quality lab services for patients and a level playing field and competition in the provision of laboratory services to medical offices.
      (3) To urge the provincial government to address this matter immediately in the interest of better patient-focused care and improved support for health professionals.
      Signed by Jenn Simpson, Koms Ukombo [phonetic], Alvin Fisher and many others.

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