St. Thomas Elgin Hospital cuts diagnostic and lab services - OPSEU

ST. THOMAS, ON, Feb. 19 /CNW/ - Despite emerging from its financial deficit, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) is cutting services that will limit access to outpatient lab testing, increase waits for diagnostic imaging, and impact jobs in the community.

Six positions are expected to be eliminated from the lab and diagnostic imaging - this at a time when the Ontario government is spending to stimulate new jobs in the economy.

In a memo to staff and volunteers last month, the hospital said it was trying to find ways to address an expected funding freeze from the Ministry of Health - a freeze the Premier has since said is no longer on the table.

STEGH justified the reduction in outpatient lab service by indicating most lab tests ordered by local physicians could be performed by private community labs.

"Once again we are seeing minor savings to the hospital, reduced hours of access to users, and an increased cost to the Ministry of Health," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the 130,000 member Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). "This plan just pushes the costs somewhere else - it doesn't save anything."

In 2008 the government received a consultant's report indicating the cost of private laboratory testing was 50 per cent more than those performed in a comparative selection of small public hospitals.

OPSEU is also concerned that those who go to the private labs will discover not all tests formerly processed by the hospital are covered under OHIP.

The cuts to diagnostic imaging come as a surprise given their importance to the government's wait times strategy.

"The idea that positions in diagnostic imaging could be lost without any effect on patient care is absurd," says Thomas.

OPSEU is maintaining a web site where the public can express their displeasure to their MPP about the lack of funding for public hospitals. The site can be found at www.avoidingzero.ca

SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

For further information: For further information: Rick Janson, toll free at 1-800-268-7376 ext 8383


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