Pharmacists and nurse practitioners in Ontario say red tape and bureaucracy are costing the province money and patients timely care when it comes to blood tests.
Patients on blood thinners now have the option to have their blood checked quickly and accurately at select Family Health Team clinics. However, the province will not pay the $6 cost for the test strip used in the test. That's left up to the clinics to pay out of pocket.
Yet the province will pay $21 for the same service if it's completed at a lab, according to the Chatham-Kent Family Health Team. It claims OHIP will cover $6 for the same test and also cover an additional $15 for a documentation fee if the test is completed at a lab.
Ministry of Health spokesperson David Jensen said the health team's figures are wrong.
"OHIP will reimburse the laboratory $6.20 for the test as stated in the Schedule of Benefits for Laboratory Services. In addition, the laboratory will be reimbursed $7.76 for patient documentation and specimen collection," he wrote in an email to CBC Windsor.
The province does prohibit patients from paying the $6 themselves at clinics.
"The Ministry of Health has said very specifically we cannot charge our patients for the strips because family health teams provide services 100 per cent covered by the Ministry of Health," said Chatham-Kent Health Team pharmacist Susan Beth Martin, who administers the test.
The province will, however, provide one-time funding for the blood monitoring devices used in clinics but nothing else. Money for the strips comes from the "general overhead" line of the Family Health Team budgets.
So, a number of Family Health Teams in Ontario have been picking up the tab for the tests. But the Chatham-Kent Family Health Team says it can't afford to pay for test strips for the 500 patients it sees.
Randy Sterling is one of them. He has suffered multiple pulmonary embolisms and has his blood tested every month. He was going twice a month, but his levels have stabilized.
He used to spend hours at a lab, have his blood drawn and then sent away for testing. Days later his doctor would have to see him to adjust his prescription for blood thinners.
Now, he can undergo a simple prick of the finger, get the results and have his prescription adjusted by a pharmacist or a nurse practitioner all within minutes. The test is similar to the one routinely used to check blood sugar levels.
He can't understand why the province won't cover the cost of the cheaper and more convenient method of testing.
"If the clinic no longer offered the test, I’d be forced to go back to the lab and take time off work or forgo the test all together," he said.
Jensen said there is some hope for health teams that struggle financially when providing blood services.
"Should a FHT perform a high volume of tests that exceeds their budget capacity, the ministry considers funding requests on a case by case basis," he wrote.
For example, the ministry confirmed that the Peterborough Family Health Team has engaged the ministry in discussions regarding exceeding their medical supplies budget.