Blood boils over lab wait times

Interior Health says many efforts have been made to speed up service

  • Feb. 1, 2017 7:00 a.m.
A South Shuswap resident is concerned about wait times in the Shuswap Outpatient Laboratory in Salmon Arm.

A South Shuswap resident is concerned about wait times in the Shuswap Outpatient Laboratory in Salmon Arm.

A South Shuswap resident is hopping mad over wait times at Interior Health’s lab at the top of Tank Hill in Salmon Arm.

“All those that attempt to do that (get blood work tested) at the lab in Salmon Arm should be ready for a hell of a long wait, maybe take a lunch to get your poke,” says Ken King, who lives in Blind Bay. “My experience is that you can sit in the bullpen full of exasperated people for at least an hour, if you’re lucky – usually longer.”

Frustrated by his experiences in Salmon Arm, King says he has driven to the lab in Chase where his wait time was much shorter.

Along with shorter waits, King wonders why there isn’t a system that would allow people to make appointments like those made for doctor or dentist visits. He also would like a system that prioritizes who gets their tests first.

“In other parts of B.C., you can get an appointment for blood work. Why not here?” King asks. “Also there are no criteria for those in more urgent need to get looked after in a timely manner; it’s take a ticket, hurry up and wait.”

Marty Woods, IHA program director for Laboratory Services, is sympathetic but says many efforts have been made to improve service and cut wait times.

“It’s not uncommon to have a 30- to 45-minute wait, and in some case up to 90 minutes,” he says, noting that staffing has been increased from four to five full-time people, but that volumes have increased by almost 20 per cent over the past five years.

“We do constantly try to remind patients if you are not fasting, you will be better served and have a shorter wait if you go in the afternoon; we can’t get everybody done between 7:30 and 8.”

Woods says he also understands people sometime go to the lab early because they don’t want to be late for work or school and recommends those who aren’t on a fixed timetable go to the lab later in the morning or afternoon in order to allow those who are fasting to get their tests quickly. As to adopting an appointment system, Woods says Interior Health has issued a request but the software provider has not yet been able to address this.