LETTER – Group responds to doctor’s letter regarding pathology issues at North Island hospitals

Dear editor,

RE: Letter from Dr. David Robertson (Doctor responds to North Island pathology concerns on behalf of Island Health)

Dr. Robertson makes three claims in his letter:

• Island Health is not planning to remove pathology labs and services from North Island Hospitals

• The only recent change was in April 2019 when “consultation of clinical pathology samples” was transferred out of the Campbell River Hospital, to Nanaimo and Victoria testing is done by “pathologists with additional training”

• Turnaround times have improved since this change was made.

Our response:

1. Removal of clinical pathology consultation from the Campbell River Hospital lab does not simply mean that something that was done “here” is now done “there.” There are other consequences – our hospital used to have several technologists who prepared samples for testing. Most of that work is no longer done here but what remains has to be done by the pathologists which means they are delayed in doing their own work. Removal of clinical pathology consultation means a reduction in funding – the hospital needs 3 full-time pathologists to allow for coverage during vacations or other leaves but is only funded for 2.4. Island Health actions are eroding lab services and one can predict that at a certain point the service will be so fractured that it will be ‘logical’ to close it down. It’s called wrecking – cripple the service, declare it’s not working, then take it away.

2. We were promised the same or more services in the new hospitals. Removing clinical pathology consultation represents a decrease in local services.

3. About turnaround times (TATs), the critical issue is not the turnaround time per se, but the ability of the team, the treating doctor and the lab staff to treat each patient appropriately. Take the example of the emergency department. An otherwise healthy young adult patient with a suspected wrist sprain may wait for three hours to be treated. During those three hours a patient with life-threatening internal injuries from a car accident, and a patient with a severed artery who has ten minutes to live without treatment, will be treated. No one suggests that if the average wait time is three hours it is good care if all are treated within three hours. So it is with clinical pathology testing. The doctor testing for a life-threatening condition requiring immediate treatment needs that patient’s results sooner than those for routine testing in an otherwise healthy patient.

At a town hall meeting on Feb. 9 the community was informed about what Island Health is doing to our local labs and what the consequences are for patient care. The condescending manner in which Dr. Robertson dismisses the concerns of the community for the erosion of the lab and the harm to patients is not what we expect from Island Health leadership.

Lois Jarvis, Joanne Banks, Richard Hagensen and Barb Biley,

Vancouver Island

Letter to the Editor