June 21, 2024

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Kingston-area board of health opposes closure of local lab

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Medical officer of health says lab closure will affect timely diagnostics

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The Kingston-area public health agency’s board of health is sending a strong message to the provincial government that it opposes the proposed closure of a Kingston-based Public Health Ontario laboratory.

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Board of Health passed a motion during its regular meeting on Wednesday to send a letter to provincial officials strongly opposing the province’s proposal to shut down a Kingston-based lab that public health medical officer of health Dr. Piotr Oglaza says has functioned in the city for close to a century.

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“This laboratory serves as a critical component in our health infrastructure in general,” Oglaza told the board during a presentation at the meeting on Wednesday. “It is essential to providing timely diagnosis and surveillance services that are necessary for safeguarding public health.”

Oglaza said that in a December 2023 audit from the Office of the Auditor General, it was discussed that the lab could be closed as a step to “streamline regional laboratory services.”

Oglaza said the lab closure would have “a significant negative impact on well-established partnerships across the region,” saying the lab’s longstanding and established presence in the community has helped many organizations.

“Its closure would impact the local access to timely diagnostic services and also the timeliness of decisions both in health care and in public health specifically,” said Oglaza, who pointed out that the lab was a critical partner in the region’s COVID-19 response, allowing local public health to provide rapid diagnostics and make policies to manage the pandemic.

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He said the lab is also a hub for Kingston-based research.

“Its closure will severely undermine our ability to effectively address any future public health emergencies and outbreaks in a timely fashion,” he said. “The closing of this will not only affect the effectiveness of the wider public health and health-care system, but also will be the loss of critical expertise and jobs in the area in all the number of partnerships, and the role of this laboratory site for graduate students, for research projects, for any of the innovation and work that this region is known for.”

Board members passed a motion to send a letter to Public Health Ontario president and chief executive officer Dr. Michael Sherar; Ontario Deputy Premier and Health Minister Sylvia Jones; and Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health and assistant deputy minister of public health.

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“We are deeply concerned about the proposed closure of the Public Health Ontario laboratory in Kingston and its anticipated negative impact on access to diagnostic services, timely support of public health decision-making, and availability of well water testing in rural areas,” the letter states.

“Considering the critical role that the Public Health Ontario laboratory plays in safeguarding public health, we respectfully urge you to reconsider the decision to close this essential facility. To the best of our knowledge, local public health agencies have not been consulted regarding laboratory closures. Collaborative efforts should be explored to address any challenges faced by the lab, ensuring its continued operation and the preservation of accessible diagnostic services for our community.”

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