Outrage over long wait times at Lindsay’s LifeLabs – the only such laboratory in Kawartha Lakes – is growing.
The Advocate has fielded several emails and calls from residents who are increasingly frustrated not only with the wait times but with the conditions of their wait. According to several people who were standing in line, chairs are not provided for those who may need a break from standing and people are forced to be outside — even in inclement weather.
Gary Hamilton simply had to pick a home test kit up from LifeLabs in Lindsay, but he was in line with everyone else that stretched outside to the edge of the parking lot.
When he’s ready to bring the package back, he’ll stand in line again.
“They’re saying it’ll be an hour and 15 minutes today,” he tells the Advocate, but lines have been known to last well over two hours at the Lindsay location.
Hamilton must go there once every two months to the Angeline Street lab. Others endure these visits far more frequently, depending on their medical needs.
“This isn’t right,” he says. “I’ve seen people with canes falling over.”
The Advocate visited several times to LifeLabs in the past week and saw long line-ups in every case. While this media outlet requested comment from management at the location, no one appeared. Several times we called their main call centre, but an automated message indicated they were too busy to answer the phone and to call back later. We then reached out to LifeLabs’ head office and were told they could comment — but that it would take six days.
LifeLabs is the largest Canadian laboratory services provider. It’s a for-profit, private corporation indirectly owned by OMERS Administration Corporation.
Hamilton says he’s not impressed with the rhetoric from Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
“I think Ford needs to leave Toronto once in a while and see things like this – all I ever see is GTA stuff being worried about, like transportation.”
Kim Peel, from Fenelon Falls, decided to abandon her place in the line-up. Fighting breast cancer, she usually gets her bloodwork done at Lakeridge Health Centre in Oshawa where the wait is typically 15 minutes, she says.
To make it more convenient for her this time, Lakeridge issued a requisition for her to give a blood sample locally, at the Lindsay LifeLabs.
“This is not more convenient,” she says, gesturing toward the line-up. “It’s insane. I’m 57 but many here are 75 and up,” she notes.
Some older people are dropped off, she points out, not realizing they will be led through the building to join the long line outside.
“I’d rather drive to Oshawa in comfort,” she says, and have a quick appointment, rather than be stuck in a line like this.
Pru LaFreniere comes every three months to the LifeLabs in Lindsay. Last time she was here she had already waited for an hour before she was turned away because she had no requisition.
The Lindsay resident says they “have to do something” to alleviate the line-up for older people.
“With a little more thought I’m sure they could operate this better.”
For Muriel Herkner, she was waiting in the hot sun for an hour and a half the last time she had to visit.
“It wasn’t fun – and their telephones never seem to work,” she says, noting she has to stop by once a month.
Several people in line said they recalled when Ross Memorial Hospital used to do bloodwork. The Advocate reached out to Amanda Carvalho, communications and public affairs officer at RMH, by email to ask when and why that ended.
“There was a function of our lab for people in the community to get their bloodwork done,” Carvalho confirmed.
“However, approximately a decade ago, the Ministry of Health directed most hospitals across the province to provide lab testing only for patients registered with the hospital (inpatient, Emergency Department and outpatient clinics). Bloodwork for the community was shifted to labs such as LifeLabs,” she said.
That was under the watch of Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government.
While pathology and microbiology testing were moved to Peterborough Regional Health Centre a few years ago, a so-called “core services lab” still exists at RMH but is not for community-level bloodwork.
The Advocate reached out to local MPP Laurie Scott’s office by email on Thursday afternoon for comment but did not receive a response either Thursday or Friday before publication time.
Janice Richmond was one of the people who reached out by email to the Advocate to say something needs to be done about the long line-ups at the private lab.
“I have seen frail people in wheelchairs and walkers waiting in the line. Maybe they should be moving into mall space?” says Richmond.
She says she recently asked the lab person at the door about the fact that colder weather will soon be here and what the plan was.
The reply was ‘I have no idea how we will handle the winter.’”