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Alberta cancer lab closure ‘life and death matter,’ says former Tom Baker doctor

Posted by on 23/01/2019

EDMONTON – A former Tom Baker Cancer Centre doctor is speaking out against what he says is the planned closure of the centre’s pathology lab at the end of the month – a move he believes will put patients at serious risk.

“This truly is a life and death matter for cancer patients,” said Dr. Tony Magliocco, the former director of pathology at the centre.

Magliocco said the Tom Baker has developed reliable and precise tests, and he has never been assured the new lab services provider, Calgary Laboratory Services (CLS), has the same expertise for the complicated testing procedures.

At a press conference at the legislature annex in Edmonton, the Wildrose party introduced Magliocco – via telephone – who said his concerns were met with intimidation. He said he had his resources withdrawn, he was not offered a new contract, and felt his career in Alberta was in jeopardy.

He said he finally resigned his position in August and has now taken a new job in Florida.

The tests affected include breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer and brain cancer.

“These services have been offered to Alberta patients and also to patients from across Canada,” Magliocco added.

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Speaking to reporters at the legislature on Monday afternoon, Health Minister Fred Horne expressed concerns that Magliocco was intimidated but said he believes the switch to Calgary Lab Services will “enhance the capacity” for testing. He said the clinic has been validating testing processes for the past four months.

CLS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alberta Health Services.

“I’m very confident that this is a good move and it will expand capacity for this sort of testing,” Horne said.

The minister said he was concerned about a letter Magliocco was allegedly sent by a superior, which warned if that if he caused trouble over the issue that he would regret it.

“While I’m concerned about the language I’m encouraged that there’s the Health Quality Council review,” Horne said. “There’s the College of Physicians and Surgeons, there’s the Alberta Medical Association and there is the medical staff bylaws in Alberta Health Services. And all of those avenues offer a physician who feels that he or she has been unfairly dealt with some avenues to pursue that.”

Magliocco still feels the lab closure, which he said is scheduled for Nov. 30, could have “serious and potentially life-threatening impacts on our cancer patients in Alberta.”

He said he tried to raise his concerns time and time again – with his superiors at Tom Baker as well as AHS and government officials – the only reasoning he was given for the closure was “efficiency.”

He has also taken the issue to the Health Quality Council of Alberta.

“Why is a perfectly functional lab being closed? What is going to be replaced with? Why is it being sent to a lab that doesn’t have experience with these methods? This is a recipe for disaster as far as I’m concerned.”

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said Magliocco’s story shows why the Redford government needs to call a full, public judicial inquiry instead of a review led by the Health Quality Council of Alberta.

“Lives are at stake and the government needs to reverse the decision to close this lab,” Smith said.

“You will see why it is doctors say that the health quality council review is not enough. You will see why it is a full, public judicial inquiry needs to be done,” Smith said.

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