Questions are circulating about the future of microbiology services at the Weyburn General Hospital. Staff was first alerted in early November that microbiology services might be removed and rerouted to Regina.

CUPE 5430, the union representing microbiology staff and other diagnostic services in the Weyburn area, was not notified and has requested clarification on numerous occasions.

Now, Tim McLeod, Minister of Rural and Remote Health, has weighed in. In a letter sent to hospital staff, with no copy to the union, Minister McLeod stated:

The SHA has assured my office that they are actively recruiting to fill the three vacant Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLT) positions at the Weyburn General Hospital. In the meantime, I understand that non-urgent samples are being sent to Regina for processing, with the results being sent back to Weyburn electronically.

Despite this letter, management at the Weyburn General Hospital has yet to confirm that this change is underway and has not responded to the union’s request to meet.

“As this is a technological change to working conditions, the union should be notified. We have been trying to get to the bottom of this for weeks,” said Adrienne Gardiner, CUPE 5430 Region 4 General Vice-president, representing health care providers in the former Sun Country Health Region. “The lack of transparency is concerning, and we want answers. Our members are worried, as are the doctors and nurses who depend on lab results to make timely and accurate treatment plans.”

Currently, Weyburn microbiology services the entire southeast corner of Saskatchewan, including Estevan, Redvers, Radville, Oxbow, Arcola, Stoughton, and Bengough. The main purpose of microbiology testing is to identify pathogens and inform physicians which antibiotic treatment would be effective.

“These proposed changes are alarming for many reasons. Sending samples to Regina will delay results by at least 24 hours, which adds an unnecessary risk that could be detrimental to a patient’s health, not to mention delays due to inclement weather, mechanical failure, and failure to store specimens at the right temperature,” added Gardiner. “Losing microbiology services would threaten our ability to offer services to communities that so desperately need and deserve care.”