Public awaits findings from board of inquiry empaneled by the Alberta Health System
Once more, a province in Canada is dealing with public disclosure of unacceptable rates of errors in anatomic pathology testing services. This time it is the healthcare system of Alberta. Since November, the public has learned about two separate cases of individual pathologists who were determined to have misdiagnosed cancer cases.
But pathology errors turned out to be only part of this story. Public concern in Alberta about the quality of diagnostics services was further heightened by another round of newspaper stories later in December. This time, the news was about the discovery of imaging errors made by a radiologist working in one of Alberta’s hospitals.
DATELINE: Toronto, Ontario, Canada—This week, clinical laboratory and pathology leaders from across Canada gathered here at the fifth Executive Edge conference to assess the state of medical laboratory testing in Canada’s different provinces. One message in the provocative sessions was clear and consistent; ever more volumes of lab testing will continue to hit clinical laboratories, even as provincial health authorities squeeze lab testing budgets in coming years.
It means that, going forward, clinical laboratories in Canada will be asked to perform growing numbers of tests without a comparable increase in lab budgets or reimbursements. Most speakers recognized this primary trend. In her presentation, Tammy Hofer, Vice President of Laboratory Services for the Alberta Health System, observed that the number of medical laboratory tests performed across the province is increasing at approximately 6% per year. In the province, there are 133 clinical laboratories and they perform approximately 60 million tests per year for Alberta’s population, which currently numbers 3.7 million people.
Another speaker during Monday’s sessions that tackled the subject of growing utilization of clinical laboratory testing was James Tucker, Principal of the Boston Consulting Group. Tucker is based in Toronto. He described the medical laboratory testing industry as a “burning platform” because the demand for lab testing will continue to outpace payment and funding paid to the labs which perform this testing.
Pathologists and medical lab managers regularly challenged to provide high-quality cost-effective services with limited resources.
DATELINE: EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA—Over the past decade and a half, this economically-prosperous province has re-aligned its healthcare regional bodies more than once in an effort to control costs while supporting clinical services that meet the expectations of its patients. In some cases, these realignments have subjected Alberta’s clinical laboratories to deep changes in their reporting structure and operational make-up.
Your Dark Daily editor was in Edmonton last week and had the opportunity to visit the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Alberta Hospital (UAH). The laboratory facility encompasses four different floors of one wing of the over 800 bed facility. It is the location of one of the two Provincial Laboratories for Public Health in Alberta and includes UAH’s Division of Medical Microbiology.