Viacheslav Iacobchuk | Dreamstime.com

Routine pathology tests still conducted locally: Island Health

A citizens group is requesting Island Health to reinstate clinical pathology testing, and to hire a third general pathologist at the Campbell River Hospital.

The group — Citizens For Quality Health Care — has collected more than 2,500 signatures on a petition, which North Island MLA Claire Trevena has presented at the B.C. Legislature.

The petition also calls for ‘an independent investigation into the apparent conflict of interest between VIHA (Island Health) and VICPCC (Vancouver Island Clinical Pathology Consulting Corporation).’

READ: Petition calls for…

“They were able to negotiate a contract with the health authority to get all the clinical pathology analysis for the entire Island,” said Barb Biley, the Comox Valley representative of Citizens For Quality Health Care. “So instead of the work being done by general pathologists in local hospitals, everything is shipped off to Victoria. So you have an immediate increase in turnaround time by virtue of the fact that you’re not testing in the Campbell River hospital. You’re sending to Victoria, and not sending every five minutes, but once or twice a day.”

If a local doctor has a question for a pathologist, or if a lab tech needs to consult with a pathologist, Biley said they no longer have a person on site with whom they can consult. They now have to contact someone in Victoria.

“And sometimes when they phone Victoria, they’re told they should send an email. It breaks the continuity and the collaboration that’s required between staff.”

According to Biley, Island Health says patients are better served because tests are analyzed by specialists, not general pathologists.

“This is not true,” she said. “All the routine testing, that is the bulk of the work of a community hospital like ours, is better done by a general pathologist who has a broad range of knowledge.”

Island Health executive medical director Dr. David Robertson said routine testing continues to be conducted at local hospitals.

“That has not changed at all,” he said. “What has changed is the process of interpretation by a pathologist. Some tests we do in small numbers and they get concentrated, some tests we send to Vancouver, very few. All the urgent ones are still being done locally.”

Island Health says it reviewed turnaround times for clinical pathology results, comparing data from when it was handled by Campbell River pathologists (prior to April 2019) and after moving to interpretation by the VICPCC. Results showed turnaround times to be the same or better. For the most commonly performed test, times are about 12 hours faster.

Robertson notes the machines are run by technologists, not the pathologists.

“The test itself is still done locally. We have moved towards a process, progressively, of this being done by people who are more and more highly trained and qualified in that field.”

This trend has been happening for decades, Robertson added.

“This is a slow, progressive move away from general pathology. On Vancouver Island, we have pursued that, because we believe that is the way laboratory services are moving…For those general pathologists, the scope of the work they do has decreased with this move of interpretation down to the south Island. We have not ruled out, at all, bringing some of that work back or having it done in GO1 (North Island).”

As for the conflict of interest, Robertson said the head of the lab, at the time when Island Health developed a contract with VICPCC, had been a clinical pathologist.

“Within Island Health, we recognize when we negotiate any contracts with any group, the leadership within that specialty is necessarily going to be someone who will be affected by the contract that we negotiate. We are confident, in recognizing that, that we ensure that conflict never becomes real. That particular potential conflict has been investigated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and they expressed no concern about it.”

Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard said the aforementioned five-year contract is up for review in March.

“It’s going to be reviewed, because the intention is that the best quality of health care services that can be provided to North Island are actually being delivered,” she said. “I’m hopeful that the people that are concerned about it have raised it. Therefore, I expect the review will be able to answer people’s concerns.”

Citizens For Quality Health Care is planning a town hall meeting in the new year in Campbell River to ‘further inform and plan.’

“There may well be something in the Comox Valley as well,” Biley said.

“People are not as well informed in the Comox Valley, because it hasn’t happened here yet. So now’s the time to stop it from going any further.”

The Courtenay hospital has three clinical pathologists.



reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The time is now: Comox Valley physicians send out message of vigilance

The physicians of the Comox Valley, and other health-care providers are on… Continue reading

Courtenay council grants extension to warming centre

The Connect Warming Centre will continue to operate at 685 Cliffe Ave.… Continue reading

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

RCMP looking for missing Campbell River man

Bernard Eberlein was last seen in Campbell River on March 27

Island Health extends appointment of administrator at Comox Valley Seniors Village

Island Health is extending the temporary appointment of an administrator to oversee… Continue reading

‘The Office’ star John Krasinski offers Some Good News in trying times

‘The human spirit still found a way to break through and blow us all away’

Comox Valley grocers going extra mile during coronavirus

We have had numerous requests to post a fluid article directing consumers… Continue reading

Trudeau promises $82B in economic supports in COVID-19 fight

The money will come through a combination of direct supports for workers and businesses and tax deferrals

Canada to spend $2B more on procuring medical supplies for COVID-19 fight

Government has signed deals with three companies

World COVID-19 updates: Putin may be exposed; 30,000 prisoners released

Comprehensive news update from around the world as of Tuesday, March 31.

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

‘This is no joke’: B.C. woman in Alberta hospital asks people to stay home during COVID-19

‘I want people to start listening to what the doctors are saying. This is no joke, please stay home’

Rest stops barring washroom access to truckers a ‘huge problem’ as COVID-19 spreads

Teamsters Canada says truckers are increasingly being denied warm meals

Canadians asked to wash mailboxes, keep dogs at bay, to ensure safe mail delivery

Four postal workers in Canada have tested positive for COVID-19 infection:

Most Read