For immediate Release:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Health Care Being Eroded in Rural Newfoundland with

Regionalization of Lab Testing

ST. JOHN’S, NL – “Plans by Central Health and Eastern Health to regionalize lab testing will result in an erosion of health care services in rural Newfoundland and will have a significant and negative impact on the people who live in rural Newfoundland”, says NAPE President Carol Furlong. 

According to Furlong, under the new policy all routine lab tests, except for urinalysis, will be referred to a centralized larger laboratory for analysis.  On-site testing will only focus on STAT testing needs of emergent acute care patients.

“This is problematic for so many reasons and on so many levels”, stated Furlong.  “This move, in our opinion, has the potential to put the well-being of patients at risk for no known benefits.  Patients in smaller rural communities will be placed at risk and for what purpose?  The equipment and personnel will remain in the communities with the only loss being an essential service that patients and their physicians have relied on for decades.

“Patients and doctors will have to wait for the results of testing even though qualified technologists and equipment are on site.  Routine blood work can often product results that would result in life and death situations, yet lab technologists will now spend most of their time packaging and refrigerating samples to go to another site.  This will also increase risks of error and contamination.  Some samples have a short stability time and if not tested within specific time, will require patients to be retested and have the tests sent off again.  Even getting the samples to a centralized site could prove problematic, especially in bad weather.

“Staff are telling us that this could also lead to a recruitment and retention problem if technologists will only be performing limited duties.  Without the staff, the labs will close in those clinics.  Ironically, government just announced a funding initiative of $2.5 million to attract doctors to rural sites.  Regionalizing lab services will take away the tools they need to do their jobs.  One has to wonder if the real goal is to close these rural hospitals”, Furlong stated.

Furlong is calling on the Minister of Health and Community Services to reverse the decision to reduce lab testing in rural hospitals and ensure that the people of rural Newfoundland have accessible health care.