Alberta’s health minister says Alberta Health Services has signed a memorandum of understanding with ownership of Dynalife, which will see the private provider transfer all of its staff, operations and physical locations in the province to government-owned Alberta Precision Labs, by the end of 2023.
“This change is necessary to ensure Albertans can get their lab work done when and where they need to and get timely results,” said Adriana LaGrange.
The province says the work will be completed in phases, with the full transition expected to be complete by December. During the transition, laboratory testing will continue at the same locations. More appointments in Calgary and other areas will continue to be added as planned, the government said.
AHS announced in 2022 that it had extended its contract with Dynalife, which already operated labs in Edmonton and some northern Alberta communities. Jason Copping, who was health minister at the time, promoted the agreement as a cost-saving measure, although health and labor advocacy groups criticized the move.
AHS then proceeded between December 2022 and February 2023 to transfer operation to Dynalife from previously public community labs in Calgary and other locations in southern Alberta.
Calgary Eye Opener10:51DynaLife Dating
But in recent months, there have been concerns about long waits, sometimes as long as a month, for appointments for routine tests, particularly in Calgary and southern Alberta.
Premier Danielle Smith previously tasked LaGrange with resolving “the challenge of the unacceptable delay of laboratory services” across the province as part of her mandate letter, which was published in mid-July.
In early August, the province began accepting more medical exam appointments internally, with Alberta Precision Laboratories offering hundreds of appointments in Calgary.
When asked what the costs would be to make the transition, LaGrange said there was an MOU with Dynalife, but the final details were still being worked out.
“That’s not something I can share. But as we move forward, we’ll be able to make it publicly available. We want to be transparent,” he said.
In a statement, the opposition NDP called the deal with Dynalife a “reckless experiment in privatization”, characterizing the strategy as “sheer incompetence”.
In April, Dynalife CEO Jason Pincock joined the Calgary Eye Opener to discuss why wait times for residents had skyrocketed to start the year.
“It’s a very complex issue, but we are very committed to the Calgary region,” he said at the time. “We are equally frustrated. It is not normal to have this kind of waiting.”
Fiona Clement, a professor who specializes in health policy in the University of Calgary’s department of community health sciences, said she was surprised to see the announcement given Dynalife’s long history in Alberta.
“Dynalife, once again, has a decades-long history of providing excellent care up north. It really wasn’t until this expansion of Dynalife into the southern parts of Alberta that we started to see issues with wait times for labs.” Clement said.
“I think that really speaks to and underscores the complexities of delivering healthcare services and establishing a network and infrastructure and working with stakeholders and physicians and other types of healthcare providers to establish a service. It’s not an easy task. “
Dynalife’s main testing facility is located in Edmonton.
According to AHS, Dynalife employs 2,900, more than double its workforce before expanding into Calgary and other areas.
Leanne Alfaro, vice president of the Alberta Health Sciences Association union, said the news came as a surprise but a welcome one, adding that the transition ahead would be difficult.
“We commend the government for making the difficult decision to reverse course on the privatization of these services,” he said.
In a sentence posted on social media On Friday afternoon, Smith said the agreement would provide faster access to timely results, adding that there would be no job losses for frontline staff as part of the deal.
The Smith government’s planned takeover of Dynalife is the latest dramatic chapter in a nearly decade-long and often highly political battle over who controls medical laboratory services.
And this is not the first time that Alberta plans to buy Dynalife’s assets.
In 2014, during the brief tenure of Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Jim Prentice, AHS had contracted Australian healthcare giant Sonic to take the control Dynalife’s private laboratory services in Edmonton and beyond, as well as the health agency’s own hospital laboratory operations.
Dynalife had protested and appealed that 15-year, $3 billion deal, which would have put the Edmonton-area lab contractor out of existence once its contract expired in 2016.
When the Alberta NDP won the government in 2015, it canceled negotiations with Sonic, calling the process for choosing the new company flawed.
Then in 2016, in a move similar to what the UCP government is now making, AHS announced plans to acquire all goods Dynalife, to bring all laboratory services under one publicly funded umbrella.
At the time, that acquisition of Edmonton and northern services would cost $65 million by 2022, when that move was supposed to be complete. The Alberta Healthcare Quality Council had recommended that the province move to a single provider of public sector laboratory work.
The NDP has also launched plans for a “super lab” on provincial land to consolidate the processing of laboratory tests into a single complex.
However, another change of government in 2019 brought a setback.
Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party had opposed the provincial laboratory project on his campaign trail, and cancelled – and NDP-era Dynalife takeover plans – after Kenney won.
“We remain committed to canceling the costly and disruptive super-lab project and ideology-driven plan to nationalize Dynalife,” Tyler Shandro, then health minister, said at the time.
At that time, the government had already spent $23 million on the superlab project and would pay another $12.1 million to return the lab’s construction site. to a field of grass.
The province then invited private contractors to bid on the lab work that AHS-owned Alberta Precision Labs was doing in Calgary and other boroughs, eventually signing the deal with Dynalife to start in December 2022.
Problems with Dynalife in Alberta arose quickly. In February, just two months later, AHS was already in discussions about “the option to acquire Dynalife and integrate it into AHS operations,” according to lobbying records that Dynalife presented to the government.