The complex situation around pathology testing in the region’s hospitals could be clarified with some more data.
The situation around the extent to which testing happens locally versus being sent out of the area came up at the first Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District (CSRHD) board meeting of the fall, held on Oct. 14. The board, composed of local government representatives, oversees the local portion of funding for capital projects in the health sector.
Max Jajszczok, Island Health executive director for Comox Valley, Campbell River and North Island, responded to some of the concerns expressed by board members. In particular, board member Brenda Leigh said she been to the lab in Campbell River a couple of times but could not find anyone. She also mentioned the lead pathologist locally had been working out of Vernon the last couple of months.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s very active,” she said. “I don’t think the situation has improved in Campbell River at all with pathology…. I’m not sure what’s happening in the Comox Valley…. Our whole hospital relies on prompt test results.”
Leigh said it was unacceptable to send the tests “down-island.”
Jajszczok said Island Health had a couple of new physicians, specifically hemapathologists, either in place or coming to the area. He also said they are using technology through scans of samples to allow experts to analyze results and help with the workload.
They had been able to fill one of two vacancies in the Comox Valley where they do anatomic pathology, with a doctor coming from Cleveland, Ohio in early 2022. A selection committee is reviewing the applicants for the other vacancy.
“There’s some good progress happening there,” he said. “We have been able to welcome and are welcoming some new physicians within this area.”
One of the suggestions during the discussion was for Island Health to provide some analytical data around the issue to help provide more accurate information for the board. Leigh had asked whether most test samples were being sent to Victoria.
Jajszczok said it was important to distinguish between which types of samples, noting that technology allows for specialized assessment by experts from across Vancouver Island, while certain samples could be done locally or in Nanaimo. He also said Island Health had shared some analytics around times and tests about six months earlier and suggested they could provide the updated analytics from their lab teams if it would help CSRHD.
“I think an update of the analytics for the board would be extremely helpful,” said Andy Adams, Campbell River’s mayor and one of its CSRHD directors.
The discussion followed a report from Doug Hillian, the CSRHD vice-chair and one of the Courtenay representatives, about summer meetings he and chair Charlie Cornfield had with Island Health. He said they had not heard anything in recent months from a citizens’ group focused on health care in area hospitals about the testing issue.
“Our hope is that that situation has stabilized somewhat,” he told the board, adding they also had discussions around issues such as long-term care funding and facility leases in the Comox Valley.