Tom Baker Cancer Centre closure a matter of 'life and death'

A former Calgary doctor is making some explosive allegations about cancer testing in the province.

Doctor speaks out, alleges intimidation by Alberta Health Services

A former Calgary doctor is making some explosive allegations about cancer testing in the province.

Dr. Tony Magliocco, the former head pathologist at Calgary’s Tom Baker Centre, says moving testing from the centre to the another lab will put patients in danger.

The cancer centre is set to close at the end of the month, when crucial testing on breast cancer samples will be moved to Calgary Laboratory Services (CLS).

CLS is not equipped to deal with these tests — which are used to determine treatment.

"If a patient can potentially benefit from an agent, and the agent is withheld, these patients could die of the consequence of not receiving the correct treatment," said Magliocco.

Magliocco said he voiced his concerns to a number of officials at Alberta Health Services (AHS) and was told it was an efficiency that would save money. He also said he was threatened with a demotion for speaking out.

"I personally believe I was intimidated, I had resources withdrawn from me, I was not offered a new contract, and really had no alternative to leave — that my career was in jeopardy."          

His tenure ended in August, after Magliocco complained about plans to close the centre's lab. 

The problems started about two years ago when Magliocco heard AHS was planning to close testing at Tom Baker and move it to another lab.

Magliocco claims there was never any consultation with health experts or the public as to why testing for cancers including breast, brain and lung were moving from a world-renowned facility, to one staffed by much less experienced people.

"Why is a perfectly functional lab being closed, what is it going to be replaced with and why is it being sent to a lab with no experience — this is a recipe for disaster as far as I'm concerned."

Not only were his questions unanswered, Magliocco said, the only response he got was a threat.

AHS responded to the accusations Monday, confirming some cancer testing would be done at CLS instead of Tom Baker. AHS said accuracy won't be jeopardized.

In Question Period today, Premier Alison Redford would not address the issue, she said it's a workplace disagreement.

"We know that some of the information we see today suggests that there's been a disagreement in the workplace with respect to some decisions. It's entirely appropriate to deal with those in the workplace, Mr. Speaker, and that's where we'll leave it."

The Canadian Association of Pathologists says centralizing labs is a national trend.