INGERSOLL – The Alexandra Hospital in Ingersoll will soon be turning away outpatients wishing to use its medical laboratory.
The hospital has told front line staff that the lab will be restricted to hospital inpatients beginning July 1st, leaving local residents seeking tests ordered by their family physician to visit the private for-profit CML lab on King St.
While the cut in service may save a modest amount of money for the hospital, it will likely cost the province much more to conduct the tests at the private lab.
The cut also comes with a small reduction in staffing at the hospital.
A 2008 government-commissioned study comparing small rural hospital outpatient laboratories to large central private labs found that for every dollar spent in the public hospital, the same tests were costing $1.50 in the private sector.
The cut in service also coincides with last December’s announcement that will take nine complex continuing care beds out of the hospital as part of a larger redistribution of beds up north to Grey Bruce Health Services.
“There is no question that hospitals across Ontario are feeling the pinch of the government’s decision to implement austerity in health care,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “Transferring more lab services to the private sector will not help with the government’s bottom line.”
OPSEU is also concerned that such cuts may rebound on an already stretched emergency department at the hospital.
“The thing about health care cuts is it doesn’t stop anyone from needing care, it just moves the problem around.”
Last year the Alexandra hospital received a one per cent increase in funding from the province – well below what is needed to maintain the status quo.