VCMH, NSHA re­spond to lab ser­vices con­cerns

Dif­fi­culty re­cruit­ing lab techs to ru­ral fa­cil­i­ties, con­tin­gency plans needed

The Victoria Standard - - Health - CAROLYN BAR­BER

Lo­cal res­i­dents and health­care pro­fes­sion­als at­tended the May 7 Vic­to­ria County coun­cil meet­ing to get di­rect an­swers from NSHA about changes to lab ser­vices at Vic­to­ria County Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal.

Vic­to­ria County Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal Fa­cil­ity Man­ager Rose Macisaac, Di­rec­tor of Pathol­ogy and Lab­o­ra­tory Medicine – Eastern Zone Mered­ith For­rest-parks and Di­ag­nos­tic Ser­vices Man­ager – Ru­ral Sites Eastern Zone Anita Par­sons were on hand to re­spond to ques­tions from coun­cil and res­i­dents.

“The lab­o­ra­tory at VCMH is cur­rently fully-staffed and the model of ser­vice will con­tinue for the time be­ing. How­ever, the pro­vin­cial pro­gram of pathol­ogy and lab­o­ra­tory medicine must have con­tin­gency plans to avoid un­planned ser­vice dis­rup­tions that have been ex­pe­ri­enced else­where and en­sure high qual­ity, safe and sus­tain­able lab­o­ra­tory test­ing is avail­able where it is needed, when it is needed,” said For­rest-parks, read­ing aloud from a let­ter sent to Coun­cil in re­sponse to con­cerns raised by Coun­cil in late March.

Part of the con­tin­gency plan­ning has in­volved “very pre­lim­i­nary” dis­cus­sions with staff at VCMH re­gard­ing point-of-care test­ing (POCT). POCT al­lows for quick spec­i­men test­ing by med­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory tech­nol­o­gists, reg­is­tered nurses, li­censed prac­ti­cal nurses and phar­ma­cists.

So far, POCT has been im­ple­mented at nine sites across the prov­ince with suc­cess.

“Feed­back from physi­cians and the nurs­ing staff per­form­ing POCT sites in Nova Sco­tia has val­i­dated that this ser­vice de­liv­ery model im­proves pa­tient care by sig­nif­i­cantly re­duc­ing the time it takes to ob­tain a re­sult,” said For­rest-parks. She said blood test­ing on the POCT de­vices takes any­where from one minute to fif­teen min­utes.

Macisaac sug­gested that some peo­ple may be mis­un­der­stand­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween walk-in lab col­lec­tion and emer­gency lab work. She said walk-in lab col­lec­tion and the avail­abil­ity for physi­cians to have blood and lab work tests avail­able for ad­mit­ted in-pa­tients will re­main the same.

“That is al­ways go­ing to be avail­able. It's the ER por­tion and the on-call por­tion that may look dif­fer­ent. You will still have ac­cess to those same tests, it just may be dif­fer­ent peo­ple do­ing them. In par­tic­u­lar, for a tro­ponin test [test that mea­sures pro­teins re­leased when heart mus­cle is dam­aged], if some­body comes in and they need to have lab work done, we have to call some­body in. And, you know how far peo­ple have to come into work. We have to wait for them to ar­rive. We have to wait for them to get their an­a­lyz­ers on, draw the blood, and run the test. [With POCT] the nurses, or the physi­cian, or the LPN takes your blood and puts it through a point-of-care ma­chine.”

Dif­fi­cul­ties with re­cruit­ment of lab­o­ra­tory tech­nol­o­gists is what prompted NSHA to be­gin pre­lim­i­nary dis­cus­sions re­lated to con­tin­gency plans to sus­tain and sup­port lab ser­vices. There are cur­rently two full-time lab tech­nol­o­gists at VCMH with one close to re­tire­ment.

Dis­trict #8 Coun­cil­lor Macdon­ald in­quired about num­bers grad­u­at­ing from lab tech­nol­ogy pro­grams. For­rest-parks re­sponded that last year there was no grad­u­at­ing class be­cause it went from a two-year pro­gram to a three-year pro­gram. This year, they hired seven from the grad­u­at­ing class. Un­for­tu­nately, none ex­pressed in­ter­est in work­ing at ru­ral sites.

“Re­cruit­ing to ru­ral fa­cil­i­ties has been re­ally dif­fi­cult,” said For­rest-parks. “We’re try­ing to sus­tain ser­vices for pa­tients that go for blood­work. We’re hop­ing this model of care will help us with that. Pa­tients can still go to their blood col­lec­tion ser­vices and get their blood col­lected. The way those tests are per­formed could change.”

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