Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Alberta government backtracks on private lab testing amid patient crisis

DynaLIFE to transfer equipment, staff to Alberta Precision Laboratories

The United Conservative Party decision to privatize lab services in the province under DynaLIFE is being reversed, following an ongoing crisis in lab testing for patients in the province.

Appointment wait times had spiraled for patients, along with lengthening times for results to be returned to doctors.

Alberta’s Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange LaGrange said that they have come to a memorandum of understanding with the owners of DynaLIFE, North Carolina’s Labcorp and the Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (OMERS), to have Alberta Precision Laboratories (APL) take over testing.

As part of that MOU, DynaLIFE staff and equipment would be transferred to APL. DynaLIFE had taken over APL staff and equipment in Calgary in December 2022, and in community health centres in the South Health Region in February of 2023.

“DynaLIFE has historically operated in Edmonton and north, and they have a very good reputation—they provided very good service. When they took over Calgary and South, we saw deterioration in the appointment times in the turnaround times for lab results,” said Alberta’s Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange.

“I know that [Alberta Health Services CEO Mauro Chies], and his team, APL and their team, worked with DynaLIFE to improve service. That still didn’t provide the quality and the timeliness that we were looking for.”

Minister LaGrange did not say what the cost to Albertans would be for ending the contract with DynaLIFE.

She said that the issues faced by Albertans were largely borne by patients in Calgary, and in the South Health Zone.

Province made the switch with the goal of saving money

Alberta Precision Laboratories is wholly owned by Alberta Health Services.

DynaLIFE, which took over for Alberta Precision Laboratories for testing in 2022, was given the contract for lab testing after a competitive bidding process was initiated by the government.

The company, prior to taking over community lab services from APL, had been serving as a lab testing provider in the province for over 60 years.

Then-Minister of Health Jason Copping said in June of 2022 when the announcement was made that the switch from APL to DynaLIFE would save the province approximately $18 to $36 million per year.

The province announced earlier this August that APL, which had continued to serve as the lab testing provider in rural parts of the province and in hospitals, would be stepping up the number of testing appointments available to patients.

In a statement provided by Premiere Danielle Smith following the handover announcement, she said that lab services were of vital importance to Albertans.

“It is wholly unacceptable that Albertans had to face long waits and delays to get simple blood work done.”

“I’ve been clear that improving our health care system is a top priority for our government and fixing these delays is one more step we’re taking to ensure Albertans can access the health care they need, when and where they need it, now and into the future.”

Neither the Premier or the Minister of Health acknowledged that it was an Alberta government decision to originally move away from using APL for services.

Dr. Luanne Metz, Alberta NDP Critic for Health (Emergency & Surgical Care), criticized the government’s handling of lab services, saying that the three-year effort to privatize services in the province had put Albertans at more risk.

“Danielle Smith’s incompetent handling of lab services has put Albertans in danger. I am constantly hearing from patients and frontline healthcare workers about extreme delays and dangerous errors in lab work performed by DynaLife,” she said.

“Now that public lab has to bail out DynaLife. This is the UCP’s reckless experiment in privatization—all the money goes to a private operator, and all the risk lands on Alberta taxpayers and Alberta families.”