The Alberta government is taking more appointments for medical tests in-house to reduce wait times, times that have been reported into the weeks.
Alberta Precision Laboratories, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alberta Health Services, will be taking on more appointments for community lab appointments starting this weekend, mostly serving Calgary and area.
On Saturday, 400 new appointments will be available at the South Health Campus and Peter Lougheed, and 175 more appointments will be available at the Foothills Medical Centre on Aug. 12.
Health Minister Adriana LaGrange called the move an “important step forward.”
“Our government is committed to ensuring all Albertans have timely access to lab services regardless of where they live,” LaGrange said.
Alberta’s premier called continual delays for simple tests or blood work “unacceptable.”
“Lab tests are a critical part of a patient’s health care journey from diagnosis to treatment, and Albertans must be able to access them when and where they need them. That’s why we have directed Alberta Health Services to make changes right now,” Danielle Smith said in a statement.
The apparent backtrack comes a year after community laboratory services were transitioned from APL to Dynalife beginning in July 2022. Dynalife took over responsibility for community and non-urgent hospital lab services throughout the province in December 2022.
APL will also be taking 25 per cent more test appointments – or 7,500 weekly – in Calgary through a combination of efforts like recruiting more staff and expanding its lab services to six days a week.
The province said APL will contract third-party labs to add capacity, expecting to add 3,000 appointments per week later in August.
APL will also open a community patient service centre in southeast Calgary and expand the Glenbrook and Airdrie centres, adding 2,500 new weekly appointments later this fall.
The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) said its APL lab members have been offered additional shifts to provide extra appointments and processing support in Calgary and Edmonton since the end of July.
“This additional support is critical to both Albertans and our members working for Dynalife,” said HSAA president Mike Parker. “Since Dynalife took over community lab services, Albertans have faced unacceptable health impacts, and our members have experienced severe stress from excessive overtime due to the backlog from lack of access to laboratory services.”
The privately-owned lab services company has its shares owned by OMERS, a municipal employee pension plan from Ontario, and LabCorp, a North Carolina-based healthcare company, with OMERS holding 56.6 per cent of shares.
During the June 2022 announcement of the expanded Dynalife contract, then-health minister Jason Copping called the expansion an “innovative solution” for long term lab services in the province.
Opposition health critic Luanne Metz said the announcement of bringing APL in to handle more community lab appointments was “all the proof Albertans need that the UCP plan for lab services has completely failed.”
“While this is an important first step, this is the UCP putting a bandage on the crisis they created. We are concerned that there is nothing in this plan to help fix the serious lab errors that are happening daily. More tests being done is a start but we need a plan to assure we get accurate, timely results delivered immediately to the correct physician,” Metz said, calling on the premier and health minister to apologize.
“This announcement effectively means that Danielle Smith and Adriana LaGrange are using public resources to bail out Dynalife and cover for their own failures to deliver what they promised Albertans.”