Community labs lose hours as Vancouver Island Health Authority cuts services, home visits

Cost-cutting measures are being made in outpatient services to “redirect the focus on areas of higher use,” says VIHA.

Accessing community lab services on the South Island will be trickier for some, as Vancouver Island Health Authority announced this week it will cut hours at three labs and end home visits to collect blood and specimens.

The cost-cutting measures are being made in outpatient services to “redirect the focus on areas of higher use,” said VIHA spokesperson Suzanne Germain.

The move has shocked members of the Hospital Employees’ Union, who say the action is in direct response to the province’s decision to slash spending on front-line health services.

“Of course we are concerned about how these changes will disrupt staff, but many others will be impacted – especially the patients who really can’t make it into a lab because they are elderly or frail,” said Mike Old, union spokesperson.

Satellite community labs at Keating X Road, Brentwood and Admirals Walk, which were formerly open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. will close at noon on weekdays, effective Aug. 8, and the Admirals and Keating locations will no longer open on Saturday mornings.

VIHA will also halt all home collection services as of Sept. 1, though visits will be replaced by representatives from LifeLabs, said Germain, who adds that, many days, the satellite labs only serve five or fewer clients at each location.

While the move will affect approximately 3.5 full-time positions, no layoffs will occur. Instead, staff is expected to be redistributed to some of the 15 medical lab positions currently vacant on the South Island.

Union secretary-business manager Bonnie Pearson said the cutbacks are the beginning of “a long summer and fall of program and service cuts that will negatively impact the accessibility and quality of health care services.”

“The B.C. Liberal government said it’s protecting health care, but that’s clearly not what’s happening on the ground,” said Pearson. “These cuts will undermine access to outpatient lab services on the south Island, and deprive the health authority of an important revenue source to support other health services.”

Germain said that while the decision to decrease services is rarely a happy one, it will save costs.

“We understand that change is hard, and we’ve had these discussions with members of the union,” said Germain. “Not everyone may be supportive, but we are the stewards of the public purse, and we have to make sure our human and financial needs are met.”