The Yukon Hospital Corporation responded swiftly to the Union’s recent statements exposing the corporation’s plan to outsource microbiology testing to St. Paul’s Hospital. They were quick to appease the public and the press, saying there was nothing to the story. They insisted our information was false.
They said the contract had always existed, and therefore nothing important would change. And anyway, even if it did change, it wouldn’t matter much. They suggested it might be an improvement in service – since we don’t have the same technology here – plus it’s cheaper and easier to send the work south. And hey, it’s only about 1,500 tests a year anyway.
We want to make sure you know the truth.
- In a public statement, the Hospital Corp said “This proposal is currently being reviewed and a final decision will be based on our ability to provide the best care possible to Yukon patients in terms of quality and timeliness.” The Hospital has not ruled out sending important routine microbiology tests to St. Paul’s hospital. It is still possible that they have already signed, or will soon sign an agreement cementing a plan to ship Yukon patients’ specimens to Vancouver for testing.
- We believe that if the Hospital Corporation begins shipping all routine microbiology tests to BC, the impact on the health of Yukoners could be profound. Even setting aside the obvious privacy and confidentiality concerns, the risks of live sample transport to BC from the Yukon can’t be dismissed. Many blood samples, urine tests and cultures (throat, wound, etc.) are only viable for a finite period of time – hours, in some cases. Quality of care for citizens in many parts of the territory is already compromised by distance. Residents of Old Crow routinely face delays because of their remote location; adding transit time to include the trip to Vancouver is only going to make matters worse.
- The Hospital Corporation has promoted keeping healthcare in the Yukon close to home; increasing capacity, modernizing and reducing the volume of exported care. Citizens of Yukon have contributed hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars through fundraising efforts and have helped secure the purchase of mammography equipment, CT scanning and MRI systems. Choosing to export this routine work out of territory is like stepping back in time. The equipment needed to make sure the microbiology lab at WGH can keep pace would be far less costly than an MRI or CT scanner.
- The hospital’s spokesperson was quoted, saying this move would only affect about 1500 tests per year. NOT true. In fact, YEU and the Hospital Corp recently collaborated on a workload document as part of the bargaining process. Statistics provided to YEU by WGH show an increase of 7% year over year, or a cumulative increase of 30% in the volume of testing routinely performed by the microbiology lab between 2013 and 2015, when the lab conducted in excess of 17,000 tests per year.
In the hospital’s own RFP, they cite almost 20,000 microbiology tests per year in the proposed scope of work. Through ATIPP, YEU has acquired a copy of the Hospital Corporation’s recent Request for Proposal for a Professional Services Agreement to provide Laboratory Medical Directorship, Laboratory Consulting and Biological Sample Testing Services (RFP #DTS-2017-08-28) issued August 28 2017 and closing October 31, 2017. According to the hospital’s own data, the quoted 1500 tests per year is less than the work of one month.
Yukoners deserve healthcare that is reliable, timely, and performed close to home. Exporting tests as common as a throat swab for Strep, a urine or STI test makes no sense. It’s taking us backward, rather than moving us forward.
The Yukon Employees’ Union is raising this issue with the public because it’s important. The hospital assures us that no members will lose their jobs, but will be shuffled into other positions. We are not raising this flag because we are concerned about the loss of union jobs, but because we are worried about protecting the services we all rely on.
Downgrading our ability to diagnose and treat illness quickly and locally is a bad idea. Adding time between testing, diagnosis and treatment will not enhance our health and we believe it’s a terrible plan. These discussions and negotiations should be transparent, and those appointed to protect the health of Yukoners must stay focused on more than the cost.
We’re asking the Yukon Hospital Corp for answers on behalf of all Yukoners.
- Will you commit to properly staff the Microbiology lab at WGH so all routine and emergency microbiology testing can continue to be performed in the Yukon?
- Do you commit to investing in the equipment and training necessary to keep our lab up to date and capable of performing the diagnostic tests our growing population demands?
- Can you state for the record whether you intend to proceed with a contract to outsource routine microbiology testing, as identified in the 2017 RFP, thus diminishing the capacity of our hospitals to provide close to home care for Yukoners?