Dr. Aref Tabarsi, a general pathologist at the North Island Hospital Campbell River Hospital Medical Laboratory, speaks in front of about 200 people at a Town Hall event at the Sportsplex in Campbell River, B.C. on Feb. 9, 2020.

North Island healthcare advocates demand inquiry into awarding of Campbell River Hospital lab contract

An organization of North Island health care advocates demand an independent investigation into Island Health’s awarding of a contract to Vancouver Island Clinical Pathology Consulting Corporation (VICPCC) and its management of the day to day running of the lab in the Campbell River Hospital.

Citizens for Quality Health Care (CFQHC) issued a statement July 14 that calls for an inquiry into the early 2014 awarding of an Islandwide contract to a newly-formed corporation, VICPCC, made up of the clinical pathologists (heads of the divisions and department) based in Victoria after they lobbied the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

CFQH says their “numerous communications of valid concern to VIHA, Ministry of Health, (Campbell River) City Council, and (North Island) MLA’s office through a petition (signed by more than 2,500 individuals), many letters and newspaper articles as well as a Town Hall meeting have all been largely ignored, falling on deaf ears.”

“We feel there is a significant conflict of interest in awarding this contract as some directors and members of the corporation also held laboratory leadership positions in VIHA,” says a press release issued by Lois Jarvis, Richard Hagensen and Joanne banks on behalf of CFQHC. “We believe VIHA’s denial of any conflict of interest in a letter written to us on Sept. 16, 2019, by Ms. Kathy MacNeil (President and CEO of Island Health) is in direct contradiction with the documents obtained through freedom of information.

“This transfer of funding to VICPCC, a private for-profit corporation, has resulted in fewer dollars preventing Campbell River from hiring more pathologists. This translates into significant delay of diagnosis which, in turn, causes serious setbacks in timely treatment of many cancer patients, many of whom are seniors.”

Recently, two Comox Valley pathologists with over 50 combined years of service to the community resigned over differences with Island Health so changes are likely to happen within a short period of time resulting in no more clinical pathology interpretation being done on the North Island, including the Comox Valley Hospital, CFQHC says.

“Our citizens cannot tolerate this mismanagement of our Campbell River Hospital Laboratory,” CFQHC says.

Island Health responded to the CFQHC press release and says it “is committed to North Island residents continuing to receive timely results to pathology testing. Ensuring equitable access to sustainable, high quality and specialized pathology services is a priority. It is also a priority for Island Health to understand the impact of decisions and ensure patient care is not adversely affected. When concerns are raised, the circumstances are reviewed to ensure quality care is being provided.”

Island Health says a review of over 1,300 samples collected between April 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020, showed the turnaround time for clinical pathology lab results from Nanaimo and Victoria are consistent with or better than the turnaround time when these lab results were provided in Campbell River.

“In fact, results for the most commonly performed test are being returned, on average, 14 hours faster,” Island Health says. “Island Health has not and does not intend to remove pathology labs from either North Island Hospital campus. Locally based pathologists remain under contract to work within Island Health’s North Island Hospital campuses and continue to provide valuable local services.”

Island Health added that in regard to allegations of a conflict of interest in the rewarding of the contract to the Vancouver Island Clinical Pathology Consulting Corporation, this allegation was reviewed and dismissed by the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons in October 2018.

With the recently announced decision by two pathologists to relinquish their privileges from the North Island Hospital, Comox Valley, effective Aug. 23, Island Health is quickly advancing a plan to provide continuity of pathology service for the residents of the Comox Valley.

This will likely require the use of locum pathologists to provide coverage while a hiring process is undertaken to secure individuals who will be able to move to the region to fill these needed positions on a permanent basis.

CFQHC also sent a letter asking for an equirty to Minister/MLA Claire Trevena, Health Minister Adrian Dix, CEO and Pres. of Island Health Kathy MacNeil, Chair of VIHA Board Leah Hollins, Mayor Andy Adams and Council and the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board.

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