Microbiology decision due Monday

Feasibility of centralization of lab testing subject of three-month-old review

  • May. 3, 2011 11:00 a.m.

The fate of lab services at Campbell River Hospital will likely be decided next Monday, nearly three months after a review into the feasibility of centralizing lab testing for bacterial infections was conducted.

Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) requested three microbiologists look into the consequences and advantages of removing microbiology lab services, which help diagnose infections such as meningitis, out of both the Campbell River and Nanaimo hospitals.

The review was conducted the second week of February, with doctors visiting medical staff at Campbell River hospital Feb. 11. At the time, VIHA said it expected the results of that review to come back within a few weeks but the timeline quickly changed to a couple of months.

Val Wilson, spokesperson for VIHA, stressed the process was not delayed.

“We anticipate receiving a written report from the reviewers soon,” said Wilson.

But Dr. Aref Tabarsi, director of lab services at Campbell River hospital, said on May 9 the reviewers, VIHA executives and senior medical staff from both hospitals will hold a teleconference and a decision will be made at that time.

Tabarsi said he is concerned it has taken so long to hear back but realizes it is out of VIHA’s hands as to when the reviewers will come back with their report.

“I personally don’t want to be too optimistic but I would be very, very surprised if the reviewers recommend centralization to Victoria, based on the conversations our medical staff had with the reviewers when they were here,” said Tabarsi. “Going by what they shared with us, I think it (centralization) would be unlikely but I can’t be sure.”

Tabarsi said there is a good possibility not all three reviewers will be of the same opinion, making VIHA’s decision even harder.

“The reviewers will set the tone and what they say will carry quite a bit of weight but it doesn’t mean that it will be final,” said Tabarsi. “The worst case scenario is all three reviewers will say centralization is not harmful to the patient and we in Campbell River would have a hard time fighting that, especially since we picked one of them. It would put us in an awkward position.”

Tabarsi and other medical staff have fought to keep microbiology lab services in Campbell River hospital since last spring when VIHA announced it planned to shut down those services in Campbell River and Nanaimo to save costs.

After medical staff in Campbell River and Nanaimo argued that removing local lab services would impact patients, VIHA ordered a review. Tabarsi maintains the integrity of a sample could be compromised during transport to Victoria, causing it to produce inaccurate results.

He said it’s unlikely VIHA will move towards centralization but if it does happen, VIHA can expect strong opposition from medical staff here.