Paula Simons: Time to put lab decision under the microscope

It was rather odd timing for a rather major announcement.

Four days before Christmas, while many of us were a bit distracted, Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services (AHS) unveiled plans for a”superlab” to handle medical tests for Edmonton and northern Alberta. The Edmonton Clinical Laboratory Hub will be able to do everything from high-volume blood tests to sophisticated genetic testing. In partnership with the University of Alberta, the lab will also be an academic centre that will integrate clinical, research and teaching functions.

The project will consolidate eight smaller sites operating in the Edmonton region, including DynaLife’s central downtown lab.

The superlab, which will include an 800-space parkade, is to be built on a 5.8-hectare site right across from the South Campus LRT station. It will be the lynchpin of the province’s plan to consolidate all lab operations, public and private, under a new AHS subsidiary.

This superlab represents the culmination of the Notley’s government efforts to reverse decades of Tory privatization of Edmonton’s lab infrastructure and services. Such outsourcing started more than 20 years ago, but reached a zenith in 2014 when AHS awarded a truly massive $3-billion, 15-year contract to an Australian company, Sonic, to build and operate a huge new Edmonton lab. But negotiations dragged on and the $3-billion contract hadn’t yet been signed when the NDP swept to power. The Sonic deal was cancelled not long after Sarah Hoffman became health minister.

Since then, the fate of Edmonton’s lab has been in limbo. Now things are speeding ahead. AHS has already put out a request for proposals to potential bidders. Hoffman says construction will be underway by next year. The lab is set to open in 2022, the same year the AHS contract with DynaLife expires. It’s an ambitious schedule. But time is of the essence, for reasons both practical and political.

EDMONTON, ALBERTA: NOVEMBER 10, 2015 – The DynaLIFE central lab facility in Edmonton, which has been at the centre of a controversy. It’s the biggest medical testing facility in northern Alberta, but DynaLIFE’s lease is being terminated in 2017 and so far the government hasn’t identified a new facility. Story by Keith Gerein. (PHOTO BY LARRY WONG/EDMONTON JOURNAL)

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The DynaLife central lab facility in downtown Edmonton is built in a former high-end shopping mall.

DynaLife’s current facilities, in a former “high-end” shopping mall on 102 Street just north of Jasper Avenue, are just too small and crowded. That space was never intended to house a high-tech medical facility. While DynaLife has managed to make it work, it’s past time for a proper set-up, one that can handle Edmonton’s growing population, and the increasing sophistication of specialized tests.

And with Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party looming, the Notley government is undoubtedly feeling pressure to get shovels deep into the ground, to ensure its decision to return lab work to the public sector can’t be reversed.

What will all this …read more

Source:: Edmonton Journal – Business


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