Lab services to stay, for now

Microbiology lab services will remain in Campbell River and District Hospital pending further review.

Microbiology lab services will remain in Campbell River and District Hospital pending further review.

Until the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) can establish benchmarks for the timing of notification of test results, it will not move to consolidate microbiology services in Victoria.

Three microbiologists conducted a review of medical microbiology services at hospitals in Campbell River, Nanaimo and Victoria in February. On Monday they shared their preliminary findings and recommendations with VIHA.

“We accept the recommendations of the external reviewers and thank all the physicians and staff for their time and input into this important review,” said Dr. Richard Chow, VIHA Chief Medical Officer. “We will begin to work to implement these recommendations, including establishing delivery benchmarks that are based on recommended best practice.”

VIHA considered centralizing its medical microbiology lab services last spring to save money.

The health authority said microbiology is becoming increasingly specialized and requires special equipment which it can’t afford to put in all three hospitals.

After medical staff at hospitals in Campbell River and Nanaimo argued that removing those services from the local hospital would compromise patient care, VIHA ordered an independent review into the feasibility of centralization.

The biggest complaint from Dr. Aref Tabarsi, director of lab services at Campbell River hospital, was that test samples could be contaminated during transport to Victoria and come back with inaccurate results.

“The purpose of testing is to get a reliable result but if you’re doing something to the test, it’s being put in jeopardy and you might as well not even do the test at all,” said Tabarsi.

VIHA says medical staff will determine what turnaround times are acceptable before determining whether or not to consolidate.

“Once these standards have been established, monitored and trialed, VIHA and microbiology stakeholders, including physicians and lab staff, will be able to determine what, if any changes will be made on a permanent basis to improve quality standards for patients,” said a release from VIHA.

VIHA anticipates a final review to complete by the end of May.