Nova Scotia

Mayo Clinic fees for blood tests reduced for Nova Scotia Health Authority

The Nova Scotia Health Authority is seeing a reduction in the cost of sending samples to the Mayo Clinic thanks to a reworked contract and by hiring two new hematopathologists.

Two new hematopathologists have also been hired

The Victoria General hospital in Halifax, part of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has received a 16 per cent reduction in fees for tests sent to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Since January 2015, the health authority has spent more than $1.5 million sending away some hematology work related to blood-borne illnesses. But the senior director for pathology and laboratory medicine at the health authority, Shauna Thompson, said recent hires and the renegotiated contract are helping reduce costs.

Help is on the way

Two new hematopathologists — both medical school residents finishing their training — have been hired, one to begin in July and the other to begin in July 2017.

As soon as the first new hire comes on board, it will reduce outsourcing costs by 25 per cent, said Thompson.

"It's very difficult to recruit these professionals so it takes a while to get them on board."

The other big help for the health authority happened in January, when a new agreement was negotiated with the Mayo Clinic that saw a 16 per cent reduction in the base cost of all tests sent from the provincial health authority as well as the IWK Health Centre.

From January to March of this year the new arrangement has saved $30,000.

"They recognized the impact of the exchange rate," Thompson said. 

Various causes

While some tests have always been sent to Mayo, there's been an increase in the number of tests being requested by doctors in the province and the resources for doing those tests haven't kept pace, said Thompson.

She said the new recruits will go a long way toward addressing the demand.

"We've seen an increase grow since 2008."

Part of the increase is due to the province's aging population, said Thompson, as the overall volume of tests grows. As a result, more work is being referred to Halifax from the other health zones around the province.

"It's more of a concentration of the work in one location plus a growth overall," she said.

Always a need for Mayo Clinic

While the goal is to increase the number of tests performed in Nova Scotia, Thompson said there will always be a need to send some work away simply because of the low volume and high speciality associated with some of the tests.

"Most of [the specialized tests] are only offered at the Mayo Clinic unless you entertain going over to Europe to refer stuff out," she said.

"It really isn't cost effective to look at doing that kind of testing in-house."

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