"Neither AHS nor the Conservative government have made a case that privatization of lab services on this scale will work. It has been tried and failed in Edmonton in 1995 and in Calgary in 1996. And yet, here we are going down the same troubled road again." — Elisabeth Ballermann, HSAA President.
Edmonton (21 Oct. 2014) — The announcement on October 17 of the new for-profit company taking over laboratory services is proof that Alberta's Conservative government will continue its ideology that sees privatization as the only option for health care, says the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE).
Laboratory services contract awarded to Australian company as Alberta Conservative government privatizes services in Edmonton and surrounding areas
"Alberta Health Services (AHS) didn't even bother to look at the option of maintaining public ownership of this critical piece of the health system," says Elisabeth Ballermann, HSAA President. HSAA/NUPGE represents about 24,000 health care professionals, including about 1,500 laboratory workers who are affected by the announcement. These members currently work for DynaLIFEDX, AHS and Covenant Health.
The 15-year, $3 billion contract to provide medical laboratory services in Edmonton and surrounding areas, which includes the building of a new lab facility, was awarded to Sonic Healthcare Limited of Australia.
"Why are the Conservative government and AHS so determined to hand billions of dollars to boost the profits of private corporations, particularly foreign companies? We have seen it in the transfer of seniors' care and are seeing it again with lab services," says Ballermann.
Private Australian company has no operations in Canada until now
"Sonic currently has no operations at all in Canada, which leaves us with far more questions than answers. We firmly believe that this new lab could be built and operated for less with public money. The government can borrow initial capital for less than corporations and it can operate without having to factor in profits and for shareholders," says Ballermann.
"Neither AHS nor the Conservative government have made a case that privatization of lab services on this scale will work. It has been tried and failed in Edmonton in 1995 and in Calgary in 1996. And yet, here we are going down the same troubled road again," Ballermann continued.
"Instead, this is once again creating uncertainty and stress for thousands of workers who provide vital care for Albertans. Hundreds may unfairly lose access to the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) into which they have paid for years, and the reliance on which they have based their careers," she says.
Yet another risky privatization experiment, says HSAA/NUPGE
"The one thing that is certain amid all this change is that HSAA/NUPGE members will continue to perform their duties to the highest standards, whether operating for a private corporation or in the public sector. However, we believe it's unfair to play around with their lives while embarking on another risky privatization experiment, and it's unwise to play around with a service that is so important to Albertans."
"We are extremely distressed that AHS would treat its employees, and even its contracted service providers, with such disrespect that we hear about an announcement as important as this through the media", concluded Ballermann.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE