Ocean Park residents are a step closer to resolving the bad blood they have with Fraser Health and the Provincial Health Services Authority.
The Fraser Health Authority board of directors announced at its public meeting Wednesday morning that it will meet with residents to discuss the impending closure of the Ocean Park Medical Laboratory.
Although the item was not on the board’s agenda, the topic was brought up during question-and-answer period.
Last month, several residents called Peace Arch News to voice frustration over a Jan. 15 Provincial Health Services Authority announcement that the Ocean Park laboratory will have its services relocated to Peace Arch Hospital, effective March 2. The decision to relocate the laboratory was jointly made by PHSA and Fraser Health, officials said.
Wednesday, a group of concerned residents used the opportunity to question and pressure the governing body to reverse the decision. More than 100 people attended the morning meeting – held at Hazelmere Golf & Tennis Club – and approximately one third appeared to be there out of concern for the Ocean Park laboratory.
“By moving the lab to Peace Arch Hospital, this will add to the growing pressure on an already overstretched facility, from patient care to parking. As such, I believe that the board should be looking at every opportunity to decentralize its services where possible,” South Surrey resident Ken Harrap said to the board.
Harrap added that, “according to Fraser Health,” the Ocean Park lab handles between 20-25 clients per day, with one employee. PAH, he said, handles between 100-125 clients per day with a staff between 10-12.
Board president Michael Marchbank disagreed with the figures, saying that Fraser Health’s productivity numbers indicate that the lab techs at PAH are about 60 per cent more productive than they are at Ocean Park.
“The information that I have is we have actually seen a decrease in volumes between 2016/2017 from 2015 at that (Ocean Park) lab,” Marchbank said. “It has went down to 8,800 from 9,223.”
Before question-and-answer period, PAH executive director Teresa O’Callaghan and PAH medical director Dr. Gerry Roberts made a presentation about the work that the hospital is doing.
Harrap said the presentation demonstrated “a fundamental contradiction.”
“They were talking on a couple of occasions of services being moved out into the community, and the benefits that have occurred from that. Whereas this move would contradict that,” Harrap said.
Marchbank said that there are several medical laboratories “quite close” to the Ocean Park area, citing LifeLabs at Hilltop Medical Clinic, Peace Arch Hospital and LifeLabs near Semiahmoo Shopping Centre.
“Have you ever been there?” someone shouted from the crowd, referencing the Semiahmoo LifeLabs.
Marchbank said he had not.
“Why not?” the voice responded.
“Because, I don’t use the facilities. I live somewhere else,” Marchbank said, which was followed by a hiss from the crowd.
Marchbank said that renovating the laboratory would cost an estimated $50,000-$60,000, and approximately $50,000 is spent per year on “non-labour costs.”
Dr. Samuel Krikler, Fraser Health regional medical director of laboratory services, told the crowd that the decision was made by both medical leadership and on the operational side.
“I stand before the board and all of you to stand by this decision and to defend it,” Krikler said.
He added that during the process, he heard of “marvelous descriptions” of volunteer activity in Surrey and White Rock.
“I’m sure there are volunteer drivers that would be happy to help people with mobility issues,” he said, which drew a quick reaction of disapproval from the crowd.
Surrey Coun. Mary Martin took a few moments at the microphone to express her support for the Ocean Park laboratory, and read one of the emails sent to her from a nearby resident. She told the board that she had received more than 100 emails in the last week-and-a-half, and handed Marchbank a binder containing printed copies of the correspondence.
South Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracy Redies also attended the meeting. She told the board that her email box has also been “clogged up with hundreds of emails” on the subject.
“I think that it does need to be looked at,” Redies said, of the decision to close the lab.
Redies told PAN that the area will experience a “rapidly aging” population, and that “it seems to me that we need to keep more services available.”
Following the meeting, Martin called Black Press and said closing the laboratory is “so unfair to these people.”
“They say it’s under-utilized, but it’s been a little treasure for 22 years in that community. How dare they just turn around and do this. I’m really on a fight,” Martin said.
A date for the meeting with residents has yet to be set.
– with files from Amy Reid