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Bill 7 – The Laboratory Services Act

The Laboratory Services Act passed second reading yesterday and now moves into committee stage. As noted in a government press release when the Act was first introduced in mid-February:

“The act enables government to strengthen patient services and ensure that resources are deployed efficiently and where they’re most needed.

This legislation provides authority for the Province to better co-ordinate in-patient and out-patient clinical laboratory systems provincewide and enables British Columbia to enter into agreements with service providers to provide greater certainty regarding costs.”

Below please find my speech at second reading on this important piece of new legislation.

First, I would like to acknowledge the Minister’s overall efforts to better streamline our health care system. As health care creeps up towards 42% of the provincial budget by 2016-17, there’s no question that fiscal prudence requires us to find more cost-effective ways of delivering quality care. Developing our community and home-based care systems, enhancing the role of nurse practitioners in the delivery of primary care, and educating British Columbians on practical steps they can take to stay healthy are all examples of important initiatives we can take to make our health care system more affordable for British Columbians.

I therefore appreciate the steps the Minister takes with this bill to move further in building a more cost-effective care system. Standardizing and streamlining British Columbia’s clinical laboratory system could create opportunities to reduce unnecessary duplication and over-supply of laboratory services while also ensuring better coordination of services and flow of information between lab technologists and other care providers. Such changes could help make our system more cost effective while also improving the quality of care patients receive.

However, it is important that as we find new ways of streamlining our health care system—of finding more cost-effective ways of delivering health care—that we also take the steps necessary to protect patient safety and to ensure that we maintain—if not enhance—the excellent quality of care we have come to know in British Columbia.

Laboratory technologists play a critical role in our health care system, offering analysis that informs how our health care providers respond to patients’ needs. This role extends from prevention to diagnosis to treatment. As the Minister has noted, “laboratory medicine is advancing rapidly”—the system, the technology and the expertise that informs laboratory medicine is constantly changing. Yet unlike physicians, nurses and so many other health care providers, lab technologists are not a regulated profession with clear and enforced standards of practice and education that ensure all laboratory technologists have up-to-date knowledge of the rapidly advancing system.

I am concerned that there is a trend beginning to emerge that we are moving towards streamlining services without doing the due diligence to ensure we are adequately protecting patients. We have seen this in the debate around Island Health’s new Patient Care Model, Care Delivery Model Redesign where Registered Nurses are being replaced by Health Care Aids, contrary to existing evidence, without first ensuring that health care aids are regulated to a standard necessary to fulfill their new, critical role. I wonder: Will we see the same here with the laboratory services act?

Streamlining health care services needs to go hand-in-hand with maintaining, if not enhancing, quality of care and patient safety. With other health care professions—such as with physicians and nurses—we have found that regulating care providers is an effective and efficient way of achieving this goal. As we look to streamline laboratory services we should also take similar steps here to regulate the related professions, to protect patients, and to ensure a consistent, high quality of care.

I do, of course, recognize that the Minister may have plans to this effect in place already and so I simply offer this concern to the debate and would appreciate any comments the Minister may have in response as we move forward.

As this is a rather multifaceted bill with potentially significant implications for our health care system, I will reserve my overall judgment of the act for committee stage, when we have the opportunity to discuss the specific details and changes it would make.

One Comment

  1. Cheryl McCullough-
    March 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I appreciate your comments to the Minister with regards to the lack of regulation for medical laboratory technologists. The profession has been, for years (if I’m not mistaken, it’s been well over 20 years), trying to lobby the government for self-regulation. Unfortunately, it is still not on the legislative agenda, as far as I am aware of, despite development of The Coalition for a College of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Health
    Professionals in 2012, involving over 10,000 allied health professionals from 5 professions wishing to form a self-regulated umbrella college. The BC Society of Laboratory Science (http://www.bcsls.net), the professional association for medical laboratory technologists in BC who spearheads this initiative, has much info on the history on the lobbying that has spanned even my own 17-year career as a technologist (http://bcsls.net/pages/rep-regcollege.html). It is with hope that with this new legislation the Minister of Health will recognize the importance of not only addressing the need for cost-effectiveness in my profession but that all aspects of patient safety and quality of care are addressed, including regulation of the professionals assigned to carry this objective through. Your concern and support is appreciated.

    Cheryl McCullough
    Former BCSLS President, 2011