There should be a more humane way to close a business

This community has sustained another kick in the health-care teeth, and most people don’t even know about it, because it happened so quietly and quickly.

Last week I had some blood work requisitioned, so I went to the 170 East St. LifeLabs location only to be told they don’t do that anymore. They still do X-rays, but you have to go to Cambrian Mall or the Doctor’s Building now for blood work.

A number of signs were posted around the office, stating that the location would be closed as of Monday, Sept. 27 (which means it closed on Sept. 24.) X-ray staff offered no explanation; only that it happened very fast.

If the facility closure wasn’t enough, the hours of operation for LifeLabs were also modified. Cambrian Mall used to be open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and it is now only open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

According to LifeLabs corporate communications staff, the closure and hours notices went up the same day that lab staff and the doctors in the building were informed, on Sept. 15. Doesn’t this seem a bit callous, giving patients, physicians, and employees less than two week’s notice?

I asked whether the woman who used to draw my blood had lost her job and was told she had been moved to one of the other two labs. I thought of all the cartoon and animal wooden carvings she had on her walls, which distracted my son when he had blood drawn, and I wondered if those were moved with her.

At the Cambrian Mall lab, it was standing room only. I grabbed number 46 and was told that I would be called in due course. I went to stand in the sun outside and a woman beside me was holding number 12. I asked how long she had been waiting and she said more than 20 minutes. I tossed my number back into the bin, knowing that there was no way I would make it to my next appointment two hours later.

The next morning, I prepared for a wait and brought a book to the Doctor’s Building. Knowing that mornings can be the worst at the blood lab because anyone fasting wants to get in as early as possible, I waited until 9:30 a.m. to arrive. I got number 55, and noticed that they were calling people up in the 30s.

As I waited, I heard the woman at the desk apologizing repetitively, saying they were sorry for the delay, but volume was up. I noticed the chairs in the waiting area were all full.

I felt sorry for the staff. They didn’t have anything to do with the closure, yet they were the ones who were being affected, along with all the patients whose wait time had just increased.

Corporate communications insists that employees are happy with the change; that scheduling is more consistent and there is more staff on shift during high volume times. I sincerely hope this is true, and that employees don’t feel that they are being asked to do more in less time — after all, they are responsible for diagnosing our health. Corporate communications also states that they are rolling out new work-flow processes that will improve patient wait times this fall. Let’s cross our fingers.

When I was finally called in after more than 1 1/2 hours, I noticed the cubicles for the workers. If the woman from East Street was transferred here, there would be nowhere for all those wooden carvings.

The silence over this closure saddens me. Business is business, but there is a more humane way to go about these things.

The LifeLabs website says nothing about the closures, or shortened hours. The lab staff, co-op physicians, and patients were given less than two weeks’ notice. No public announcement was made in the media to ease the transition for regulars — they would show up, having already paid their parking, and be turned away.

Console yourselves that the closure notice states: “We regret any inconvenience that this may cause you. It’s been our pleasure serving you at this location. We look forward to continuing to serve you at our other Patient Service Centres.”

Don’t feel alone, Sault Ste. Marie: Hamilton, Kitchener, Burlington and Stayner were also affected that week by sudden LifeLabs closures.

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