History of 1990s Laboratory Restructuring in Alberta

with a focus on laboratory medicine in Edmonton
Originally written in 1994-6. Last updated 6 Sept. 2009

Hello from Edmonton, Canada, where approximately 50-60 % of medical laboratory technologists are scheduled to lose their jobs by the end of 1996 due to re-structuring of healthcare. This page will record changes as they occur, using local newspapers and public announcements as source material.

I think that it is valuable for laboratory professionals to be aware of trends that are occurring globally. Bemoaning these changes, even the personal tragedies of the job losses to be faced by our colleagues (and in some cases ourselves), is not my purpose in reporting these events here. When morale is low (and goodness knows, morale is low among lab technologists in Alberta these days), people with leadership roles need to keep the faith.

Given that these cuts will occur, our challenge is to try to create a leaner system that is safe and that effectively fulfills the diagnostic role of laboratories in the healthcare system; in other words, one that serves the patient well.

NOTE: The information below is historical. In 2008 the government embarked on another healthcare experiment:

Laboratory Up-dates

Lab Service Privatization Creating 'Mass Confusion'

The three hospitals in Edmonton with only rapid response labs (Grey Nuns, Misericordia, and Royal Alex) are now sending most of their routine work to the private lab, DKML. Has the move gone smoothly? Here's what the players are saying.


$7M Fund for Docs in Distress

The Edmonton Journal of 6 May 1996 reported that doctors hurt by health cuts, mainly pathologists and MDs in private labs, can tap into a $7 million fund to help them over their hard times. (The Journal of 8 May clarifies that the government has not yet approved the proposal from the Alberta Medical Association.) It appears that 32 lab doctors in Alberta (roughly one third) have lost their jobs, but only six remain unemployed. Most have found jobs elsewhere in Canada or the USA. Here are the highlights:

Healthcare Staffing

The Edmonton Journal of 27 Jan. 1996 reported the following changes to the number of full-time healthcare workers in Alberta.

No figures were available for the number of physician positions that may have been lost, if any, during this time.


State-of-the Art Lab Soon to Be Empty

Former RAH Lab Boss Reveals He Quit to Protest Shutdown


Most Lab Staff to Lose Jobs at the Misericordia


To give you some idea of the type of downsizing that is occurring, consider the following: At the RAH, the second largest hospital in the city, the number of lab managers is scheduled to drop from 3 to 0, the number of lab supervisors is scheduled to drop from 20 to 2, and the number of technologists is scheduled to drop from 54 to 19. All told, in Edmonton 300 positions have been eliminated at DKML, and another 300 are disappearing from the hospital labs.

Severance Packages

Background Information

As background, in 1993-4 the government-funded Capital Region(mainly the city of Edmonton) spent $78 million on laboratory services.(Some $280 million was spent in the entire province.) There are six hospital-based labs, three private labs with 124 collection sites, and three special labs(e.g.,Red Cross, public health) in the Region. The number of lab technologists and similar workers is estimated at 1200.

Summary of the Capital Region Plans