LETTER – Doctor responds to North Island pathology concerns on behalf of Island Health

Dear editor,

I felt it important to respond to the letter to the editor posted online on February 5, 2020 titled Removal of pathology labs from our hospitals is a step backward.

Firstly, I want to assure you that I, other leaders within Island Health’s Laboratory Medicine department, and our executive leadership have heard concerns raised by some in the community about pathology services in Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

Let me be clear: Island Health has not and does not intend to remove pathology labs and services 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.

The only recent change to local services occurred in April 2019, when the consultation of clinical pathology samples in Campbell River was transferred to pathologists working within Island Health hospitals in Nanaimo and Victoria. Island Health approved this transfer in keeping with the aim of having clinical pathology performed by pathologists with additional training in those fields, and in keeping with contractual obligations.

There have been statements made that wait times for North Island clinical pathology test results have increased since this change. This is simply not the case. A quality review of over 900 samples collected between April 1, 2019 and January 15, 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, turnaround times for the most commonly performed test are being returned, on average, 14 hours faster.

Other commentary referenced wait times for pathology results related to cancer tests. In fact, the pathology reports for almost all types of cancers have not been transferred from the North Island Hospitals. They are being done there in just the same way they have been done for years. Specific to pathology testing for cancers of the blood system (such as leukaemia), these are now being reviewed by specialists who, as stated above, are returning results more quickly than when consultation was provided in Campbell River.

Island Health is committed to north island residents continuing to receive timely results for pathology testing, while ensuring sustainable and equitable access to high quality, specialized pathology services.

Dr. David Robertson, Executive Medical Director, Laboratory Medicine, Island Health