EDMONTON — Alberta is cancelling construction of a medical superlab and scrapping a plan to put all laboratory services under government control.
Premier Jason Kenney promised to do so before his United Conservative government was elected in April.
The former NDP government had announced the project in 2016 to bring existing labs and staff under one roof and put all services under one agency’s control.
Kenney argued the changes would do nothing to improve patient services.
Construction of the $595-million superlab near the University of Alberta’s south campus in Edmonton was stopped shortly after the election while the government did a review.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the province will save all but $23 million in construction costs and another $50 million will be saved by cancelling the planned buyout of private lab-testing provider DynaLife.
“We’re standing by our commitment to cancel the expensive and disruptive superlab project and the ideologically driven plan to nationalize DynaLife,” Shandro said in a statement Thursday.
“We’re going to put patients at the centre of the health system and invest health-care dollars where they’re most needed.”
Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda said vendors with the lab project will be compensated for the termination of contracts and the construction site will be restored.
The Health Sciences Association of Alberta, which represents 6,000 lab workers, condemned the move.
“A single lab for all Albertans would have eliminated needless duplication of infrastructure and equipment and would have enabled better communications between labs, doctors and patients,” the union’s vice-president, Trudy Thomson, said in a release.
Calgary Lab Services and labs with Alberta Health Services and Covenant Health merged last year into Alberta Public Labs, she said. Workers with DynaLife, which provides the majority of tests in the Edmonton region, were to join in 2022.
Studies have shown that northern Alberta is in critical need of updated equipment, Thomson added.
As a result, some tests have to be completed outside the province, leading to delays and more costs.
“The minister of health has falsely suggested that this will somehow save Albertans money,” she said.
“We will need to continue to pay for these services no matter who provides them. But health-care dollars should go to patient care, not profit care.”
The Canadian Press