Medical Lab Workers Say No! to Scrapping
New Public Facilities

The question of who decides the direction of the economy, including health care and other public services has come to the fore again with UCP leader Jason Kenney's announcement that he would scrap the new publicly owned medical lab facilities to be built in Edmonton. Kenney said a UCP government would "save" $650 million by scrapping the new facility, calling it a "bureaucratic empire."

All Albertans have a stake and therefore the right to a say when it comes to handing over such a crucial public asset to private interests. Dedicated, knowledgeable and experienced lab workers and professionals should be on the front line when it comes to decision-making regarding their sector of work.

In 2015, Alberta Health Services announced it would contract an Australian company which started as a penny-stock mining company to build a new lab in Edmonton to serve northern Alberta. The decision was made after the group established to make recommendations was ordered not to consider a public lab. The ensuing decision was broadly opposed and the NDP government reversed it through a process which permitted all options to be considered.

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) President Mike Parker explained that this process concluded that a publicly owned and operated province-wide laboratory operation was the best, most efficient way to go. HSAA represents medical lab staff.

"UCP leader Jason Kenney demonstrated an appalling ignorance over how health care works in his statement on laboratory services in Alberta," Parker said."It's hard to believe that someone with so little understanding wants to be trusted with running our vital health-care service. Kenney's plans for lab services reveals so many misconceptions, mistakes, misleading statements and insults to health-care experts that it's hard to know where to begin when analysing what he said...," Parker added.

"He says that labs don't heal people. What on earth does he think we do in labs? We do the tests that provide the diagnosis so people can be treated. Labs and the trusted health-care experts who work in them are a vital part of the health-care system. Without their skills, doctors are just guessing." Parker also pointed out that the claims that a new lab are not needed are ill-informed, and that lab facilities are stretched to the breaking point. A new lab will have to be built, he pointed out. The only issue is whether it will be based on the motive of private profit or be publicly owned and operated.

Facts show that far from "saving money" Kenney is proposing to seize more of the social wealth to line the pockets of the rich. Under the deal made with the private company Sonic in 2015, Sonic would finance the land and building for a new lab. They would be repaid the fixed investment of social wealth with interest and guaranteed a profit from operating the enterprise. Alberta Health Services would have to buy the facility and equipment if the contract was not renewed after 15 years, even though Sonic would have already been repaid its invested social wealth with interest, not to speak of the operating profit, which is lost to the public.

Scrapping the public lab would be the first step in reviving the schemes for a lab built with the motive of private profit. Such schemes should be recognized for what they are -- a form of corruption -- and banned by law. Instead, the value generated within social programs and public services such as lab services must stay within the public health care sector or be used to enhance other public services and social and material infrastructure and be available to protect the well-being of health care workers.

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 13 - April 13, 2019

Article Link:
Medical Lab Workers Say No! to Scrapping New Public Facilities


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