HEU launches campaign to fight CHR/MDS deal to privatize lab services

Our goal is to keep our lab services public

HEU is gearing up to fight an anticipated announcement by the Capital Health Region to privatize some hospital lab services - a possible first step for widespread contracting out of CHR health services. In August, the CHR entered into formal discussions with MDS, a sophisticated Toronto-based lab testing multinational. A backroom committee of administrators is expected to come up with specific recommendations sometime between Nov. 15 and 30 for what amounts to a public private partnership (P3) for lab services. Any agreement with MDS could involve job losses and displacements, integration of testing facilities, sending more high volume in-patient tests to MDS, an MDS-supplied and managed lab information system. In spite of this, board members - including labour and health care representatives - may never even get the chance to debate the proposals. That's why HEU is launching a campaign to oppose this deal. Keep our labs public Here are the main elements in HEU's campaign to fight a CHR/MDS partnership: • a membership education drive; • sticker campaign to show our opposition in the workplace; • we'll lobby local MLAs; • a postcard campaign to press health minister Priddy to act; • research brief to knock some of the lustre off MDS claims of success in other public-private partnerships. While HEU members in lab services face an immediate threat, the outcome of the CHR/MDS discussions will have broader repercussions for all union members in the region. First, some of the moves could involve a loss of lab billing revenue for CHR facilities, which could impact overall facility budgets. Cuts in other areas could result. Second, the CHR/MDS talks could open a floodgate for health region CEO Tom Closson - who is an outspoken supporter of privatization - to unleash even more such initiatives. Prior to Closson assuming the helm last year, the region had launched a lab outreach strategy to promote greater public use of hospital lab services to "recycle" testing revenue back into our public Medicare system, instead of generating profits for multinational companies like MDS. HEU polling shows there's strong public support for this approach. HEU believes the government policy is short sighted and needs to be changed. The union is more than willing to work with CHR administrators to lobby health minister Penny Priddy. We need to press Victoria to implement a policy that ensures there's fair allocation of licenses between public and private labs, so that we can keep more health care resources within our public Medicare system.