Submission: Lab Services in the New Saskatchewan Health Authority

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On October 6, SEIU-West told the Ministry of Health what we think laboratory and pathology services should look like when the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is up and running. The bottom line: workload pressures and short-staffing in the lab/path sector have reached critical levels, and need to be addressed in a way that preserves the public nature of our health care system.

As part of the transition to the SHA, the Ministry set up a Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Working Group. In late July the Working Group contacted SEIU-West for our feedback on the future of laboratory and pathology services under the SHA. We began looking at the experiences of other provinces, and designed an online survey to gather the views of the real experts on the Saskatchewan situation: our 630 members who work in the lab sector. In mid-September, just before the survey was set to launch, the Working Group sent us a proposed governance model and a service delivery model for laboratory and pathology services, and invited our feedback by October 6. We revised the survey and launched it on September 19. It remained open until October 1.

On October 6 we sent a 29-page submission to the Working Group. The submission includes:

  1. Our feedback on the Working Group’s proposed Governance Model. We found the model too vague to say much about, except that how it winds up working in reality will depend on who gets hired to run it. If it’s some of the same managers who have been running the lab/path system for the past decade, we have real concerns.
  2. Our feedback on the Working Group’s proposed Service Delivery Model. The model lists 10 “essential items”, such as improvements in human resources planning, information systems, and transportation. We support all 10 items in principle, but as the saying goes, the devil is in the details, which are still to come. We are concerned that some of the items set the table for further privatization of lab services.
  3. Our feedback on documents the Working Group shared with us about recent experiences in the lab services sector in BC, Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario. We assert that these experiences have little relevance to the Saskatchewan situation. Alberta in particular is still struggling to pick up the pieces of several failed attempts to privatize lab services.
  4. The results of our online survey. We received 145 responses. Among the key results: workload pressures are rising, and staffing levels have not kept up–69% of members said that their lab is short-staffed at least once a week. The closure of STC bus service severely disrupted lab service to rural areas, and health administrators have already begun contracting out to large, private, out-of-province lab companies that were lobbying the government months before STC was closed.

You can read the full submission here: SEIU-West Lab consultation brief

Letter to Patrick O’Byrne re: Laboratory & Pathology Services under the Saskatchewan Health Authority

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