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Lab slides imageOver the past month, Laboratory Medicine Program staff have been lending a hand at Eastern Health, Newfoundland and Labrador's largest laboratory, after series of resignations. So when a call came from Newfoundland on Friday, March 12, Dr. Sylvia Asa, Medical Director, wasn't surprised. She was, however, concerned. Eastern Health needed an expert to fly to Newfoundland — fast — as cases were being held up for review due to a resignation that week.

"After a Newfoundland & Labrador Provincial Inquiry (Cameron Inquiry), a rule had been implemented that no immunohistochemistry stains could go to pathologists for interpretation without verification of technical quality by the head of the immunohistochemistry (IHC) lab," explains Dr. Asa. Unfortunately, the head of the IHC lab had left and there was no replacement. UHN's Director of IHC, Emina Torlakovic, could not fly that weekend to St. John's but suggested Eastern Health send her the slides so she could review them.

The problem? Fed Ex could pick up the slides for Saturday delivery to UHN, but could not return the slides overnight Sunday as they had no Sunday service. This meant that the pathologists in Newfoundland would have to delay the reports yet another day.

"When it comes to diagnosing cases, waiting a day is a big deal because a patient needs the result for treatment," Dr. Asa says. "You have to also remember we have a responsibility to diagnose UHN patients as quickly and accurately as possible. We needed the slides here that weekend so that by Monday we could concentrate on our patients."

Lab quote imageDr. Asa's assistant, Yvonne Bedford, tried DHL, UPS and every other commercial courier, with no success. She then went to Tom Clancy, Director, Core Laboratory Services, whose connections enlisted Carecor, a small courier service, to do a special return delivery on Sunday. Diana Booth, Supervisor of Pathology, organized that she and Carmel Fox, a clerk in Pathology, would come in on Saturday to receive the FedEx delivery and organize the slides for pathologist review.

Unfortunately, the FedEx check-off box requesting for Saturday delivery, had not been completed. When Carmel called searching for the delivery time, they told her that the package was in a crate scheduled for Monday. Not taking no for an answer, Brad Davis, General Manager, called the senior administration at FedEx, drove out to the airport and ultimately ended up personally delivering the package of slides to TGH. Carmel then accessioned and prepared the slides.

On Saturday night, Dr. Torlakovic and Dr. Danny Ghazarian reviewed and documented the acceptability of all the slides. By the following morning, they had a complete report with every detail itemized. The slides were packaged and sent back by Carecor at 1 p.m. "I am very proud of the team," says Brad Davis, General Manager. "It demonstrated just how committed they are to providing quality care — not just at UHN but across Canada."

The extraordinary efforts of the Laboratory Medicine Program's staff came to the attention of Dr. Bob Bell, who honoured them in a tea ceremony on April 1. "As health care professionals, we are often called in times of need to aid our peers and patients at other Canadian hospitals," says Dr. Bell. "This help comes in many forms — expert consultation, case reviews, even moral support — and while we are happy to help, it can add many hours to an already long day. On behalf of all patients, we thank you for going above and beyond that weekend."

UHN will celebrate National Medical Laboratory Week on April 18 – 24. Watch the Intranet for more information on display booths and events.

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