This article is written by Rob Kerekes, Accreditation Canada Diagnostics Accreditation Assessor; and Manager of Laboratory Services, South Huron Hospital Association
During this difficult time of hospital budget constraints and stress on staff and workload, the South Huron Hospital Association (SHHA) decided to invest in a laboratory renovation project to improve safety, efficiency and aesthetics.
When a previous Accreditation Canada Diagnostics assessment identified deficiencies in workspace conditions, leadership recognized a separate Hospital Infrastructure Renewal Fund (HIRF) opportunity could drive this important project. Window replacements, an upgrade to the HVAC and electrical panel were accomplished through HIRF. The South Huron Hospital Foundation (SHHF) also generously funded new flooring, paint and benching from the annual local community supported Radiothon.
Dr. Mark Nelham, Chief of Staff at SHHA said, “Those of us who work on the front line take for granted getting our laboratory results back quickly and efficiently. We order the test and then hope to have those results within 30 minutes or so. We rely on the results being accurate to sort out diagnoses and guide our treatment plans, so how would this work through a renovation? On February 26th, our laboratory staff moved their gear out of the main space to work from ‘here and there’ to continue to provide the tests we need. It really was quite amazing how they managed to keep us up and running with minimal delays. Most of our physicians didn’t even notice.”
The physical renovation was achieved in five weeks, and during that time the laboratory was able to provide continuity of service from a few small rooms adjacent to this space.
Dr. Nelham, “As we carried on caring for our emergency and in-patients, accurate laboratory results continue to be posted to the patient record. The renovations went forward as quickly as possible and, in spite of material shortages and shipping delays caused by the pandemic’s impact on the supply chain, our laboratory moved back into its new ‘digs’ on April 7th; just in time for Ontario’s next lockdown and stay-at-home order.”
As noted by Rob Kerekes, “Laboratory services occasionally tend to be overlooked for upgrades due to the inability to generate revenue and the lack of public exposure. Investment in this service demonstrates leadership attentiveness to staff safety by providing cleanable benching; the opportunity to maximize efficiency with a new, more ergonomic layout; and a fresh warm feel enhances the morale of employees.”
Dr. Nelham adds, “We are used to getting our results very quickly. Being a small hospital means there is very little delay between the decision to do a test and the sample being processed. Larger hospitals typically wait over an hour to get results; whereas we would see ours within about 45 minutes. There has been a move to do point-of-care testing (POCT) in larger centres to mitigate time delays seen in standard laboratory testing. These tests can often be completed faster, but the time advantage is significantly less in a smaller hospital. POCT also lacks the reliability of a test completed by the main laboratory using standard equipment. POCT consumes more time from front line staff as they process samples, and abnormal results require verification through standard laboratory testing. All of this to argue that it is not just resistance to change that has those of us working on the front line advocating for our laboratory colleagues. They are a vital part of our team and they play an even more important role directly in the care of our patients in the small hospital setting.”