Consolidating lab services strikes sour note

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Meeting planned for Feb. 20 in Pugwash

A meeting is planned for Feb. 20 to protest cuts to lab services at several Cumberland County hospitals.

A meeting is planned for Feb. 20 to protest cuts to lab services at several Cumberland County hospitals. A former county councillor says the cuts aren't needed, while the chairman of the health authority board says the consolidation is mainly because of a human resources challenge at the regional hospital.

PUGWASH – Opposition is growing to a plan to consolidate Cumberland County’s laboratory technicians at the regional hospital as part of a plan by the Cumberland Health Authority to eliminate a $700,000 shortfall.

Kathy Redmond, a former Cumberland municipal councilor who led a community health-care committee in Pugwash, said a public meeting is planned for the Ground Search and Rescue building in Pugwash on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.

“I think cutting our services is not the right way to look at cutting back. When you’re putting people’s health-care at risk, you need to be looking for other ways of making the cuts,” said Redmond. “There are instances when you need the lab information asap and I’m afraid that our ER will be next because they can’t do proper testing if someone comes in with a heart attack.”

Redmond’s comments come two weeks after health authority CEO Bruce Quigley announced routine lab tests will no longer be processed at Cumberland County’s smaller hospitals. The health authority is consolidating its laboratory services at the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre to balance its budget and deal with a growing human resources challenge.

Quigley said blood and other specimens will continue to be collected at All Saints Hospital in Springhill, North Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Pugwash and the South Cumberland Community Care Centre in Parrsboro, while urgent lab needs will be done through point-of-care testing technology.

Eight positions – six in Springhill and one each in Parrsboro and Pugwash – are being moved to the regional hospital near Amherst.

CHA board chairman Bruce Saunders said the primary reason for the change is the human resources challenge that’s coming in retiring laboratory technicians.

“This is not a Cumberland Health Authority versus Pugwash thing. This is a provincewide event that’s being driving by cost but also by the fact that we also have a large percentage of our lab techs retiring over the next five years,” Saunders said. “The education system is not putting out enough to replace those we are going to lose. Simply put, we will not have enough to staff these facilities. So, rather than wait for the calamity to take place we’re being up front and dealing with it now.”

Redmond said the health authority is too top heavy in administration. Pointing to its compensation disclosure document for 2012-13,  Redmond says the CHA should look at reducing administrative costs instead of consolidating patient services. She said $2.57 million for 21 administrative salaries is high.

“Find another way,” she said. “Do we really need that many administrators? When you’re spending almost $2.6 million on just 21 positions it’s time to look at how we’re spending our health-care dollars.”

Saunders said Redmond should have called the health authority office for an explanation because 15 of those in the document are nurses.

“She makes it sound like there are 21 people in administration making more than $100,000 when that’s not the case,” Saunders said. “The fact is, three-quarters are front-line health-care providers.”

Saunders said the province has already begun the process of reducing the number of health authorities to two to save more than $13 million in administration costs.

Saunders said a lot of savings are also being generated across the province by merging services. That process, he said, didn’t stop with the provincial election.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

 

Organizations: Cumberland, All Saints Hospital, North Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Pugwash South Cumberland Community Care Centre CHA board

Geographic location: Pugwash, Cumberland County, Springhill Parrsboro Amherst

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  • Ron Jeremy
    February 11, 2014 - 10:09

    People like Saunders are great spin doctors. No matter what, they will spin it all day to make sure management keep their jobs and let services get cut. People are not seeing the real reason for high health care cost. Cutting a board is peanuts. The real cost is over priced doctors who are sucking MSI dry. Take a look at the parking lot and you can quickly tell where they all park? Its all about supply and demand. As a country, we need to revolutionize the way we train doctors. We need to make medical school education way more accessible so that applicants do not need to come from rich families or have political connections. Once we saturate the market with doctors , especially GPs, you will see quite a difference in salaries. They are not gods. They do not need to paid in huge sums of money. And maybe they will start respecting people and actually practice Hippocrates oath instead of focusing on profit margins. Finally, health care companies need to be regulated so that hospitals are not being overcharged for ridiculous items. If you don't believe me, take a good look at typical hospital charges in the USA. It is obscene.

  • macpass
    February 07, 2014 - 07:48

    Even if these so called $100,000 per year plus fat cat people loose their jobs they will either be given another one somewhere else or get a fat retirement cheque so no savings will be made anyway. Don't forget in the next federal or any election to stay home again and do not vote so the Harper Reform / Conservatives, the local town and county old boys clubs councils and the provincial patronage / corrupt provincial governments can all get in again. All 3 levels of government love you sheeple whom say.... I am not voting for any of them crooks so the same thing continues on and on and on without any real change as less than 40% of you will exercize your right to stand up be heard and vote.... so stop complaining. The dictator Harper loves all of you sheeple and he has a special place in his heart for our Veterens.

  • Concerned citizen
    February 06, 2014 - 19:50

    It should be know that point of care testing is performed by nurses. These test can take up to 45 minutes to perform. During this time the procedure must be monitored. This means in the comunity hospitals where there are only 2 nurses on at a time during an emergency one is tied up for an extended length of time leaving one nurse (and perhaps no physician) to cope alone. What happened to the better care sooner model which has the right person doing the right job. What happened to patient safety in the community hospitals. Do I thing the emergency departments are next? Darn right as an emergency department has to meet a certain criteria which I would be surprised they could meet under the a over cercomstances.

  • wingman
    February 06, 2014 - 19:09

    Kathy Redmond is right. Getting rid of the Cumberland Regional Health board would be a great start to balancing the books. They provide no health care anyway just draw big salaries.

  • Joanne MacPherson
    February 06, 2014 - 17:28

    Post the jobs and just see how fast lab technicians from here paying most of their salary to rent an apartment in downtown Vancouver and Calgary rush back home.

  • Fuzzy Bear
    February 06, 2014 - 11:19

    "When you’re spending almost $2.6 million on just 21 positions it’s time to look at how we’re spending our health-care dollars.” “She makes it sound like there are 21 people in administration making more than $100,000 when that’s not the case,” Saunders said. “The fact is, three-quarters are front-line health-care providers.” Hummmm...that statement makes it even worse than Kathy outlines. We all know that front line personnel (nurses etc.) do not make the top wages so the remaining 6 people Mr. Saunders refers to are making some pretty good salaries. No matter how you play with the words the facts are the facts....2.6 mil / 21 works out to about $123,000 a year average salary and if the 15 are not making that then the remaining 6 must be recouping the rest and therefore well above that average. Not to shabby an income for a well known have not area like Cumb. Co..

    • Greg
      February 06, 2014 - 23:13

      Interesting math, Fuzzy Bear. Only you are forgetting that there are more costs involved than just salaries. A person who makes a $60K salary typically costs the organization closer to $100K, sometimes more, when you consider benefits, support and overhead expenses