Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gee, What A Surprise...

Yeah so I b*tched about how Alberta stopped charging it's residents a premium for basic health care in Jan 2009, because I worried what the sudden stoppage of funding would do. From program cuts to crappier services... and it is happening already.

The Alberta Health Services are talking about a fast-moving axe to the neck of cytology labs in 3 cities, in order to centralize in Calgary and Edmonton. The following appeared in the Medicine Hat News (I do not have a link but I assure you it is an unaltered copy/paste):

Medicine Hat News
Local - Thursday, Thursday, February 19, 2009, p. A3

Concern for jobs with further health service centralization

Chris Brown


Centralizing health service supports does little for community development or quality care for Alberta patients, the provincial Friends of Medicare said Wednesday.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) plans to consolidate gynecological cytology laboratory services for the entire province. Almost 20 providers of laboratory services are listed as having the capability and experience to submit applications to a request for proposal (RFP) issued earlier this month.

At least one local lab is engaged in a proposal and cannot publicly discuss their application.

A memo sent to all AHS lab administrative and medical directors says the consolidation would move ahead as soon after April 1 as possible. Decisions on proposals are supposed to be made on March 20.

A few cytotechnologists are speaking out on the issue through a Facebook group because they want the public to be informed about this move. They also suggest quality control could be compromised if all pap smears were observed at a central lab.

David Eggen, executive director of the Alberta Friends of Medicare (FOM) questions what impact the centralization will have on the timeliness of returning test results to Alberta patients and how many jobs it will take from Alberta communities.

"The economy runs up against best practices for health. This is a common problem and it highlights again the fact that health care is not just a commodity that you can use the same economic principles on as selling pizzas or building things," said Eggen. "It's a human resource that must be developed close to all population centres, you can't just centralize it for the sake of the economy."

AHS should be providing Albertans with a full picture of this initiative and state whether or not other lab testing services will also be centralized, he says. Decisions to move services from communities are being made without public knowledge and the FOM is concerned about this lack of transparency.

The comment was echoed by Alberta Liberal Leader and shadow health minister Dr. David Swann. He says it's hard to support the changes when there is no explanation of who made the decision, why they made it or who will benefit.

It also raises questions whether private labs would end up being more accessible and monitored as closely as public labs to ensure quality.

However, a slight increase of costs is not a bad thing if government is prepared to show there is a real benefit to the patients.

"One could argue that you could put up a little bit of extra cost for transport if you're getting better quality and better affordability otherwise," said Swann. "It's not at all clear that's the case."

Category: News
Uniform subject(s): Health and social services
Length: Medium, 360 words

© 2009 Medicine Hat News. All rights reserved.

Okay so what's next eh? Are the people out there who cheered about not paying the miniscule premium of $44 or $88 a month happy now? I knew that things would be chopped and axed and it is NOT WORTH IT. It is not worth the risk to patients for longer wait times, not to mention relying on slides to be transported 3 to 5 hours away safely and not be compromised, resulting in incorrect analysis. The list goes on for why this is not a good idea. There are over 60,000 people in this city, not to mention all of the outlying small towns and rural area, and each program that gets centralized pushes us back to even longer waiting times. Is that a responsible way for the govt to work on 'our behalf'? But anyone who was thrilled with not paying a premium - this falls on your shoulders too. I did not want this for free because I knew that free meant running out of funding, and cuts to programs. And here we are in February learning of at least one cut, affecting hundreds of thousands of people in and around 3 'smaller' cities. Nice one!

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