Pandemic precautions forcing sick, elderly people to wait in the cold

·2 min read

Northern Ontario is presenting a unique problem for people waiting for an appointment at the local health lab.

France Gélinas, MPP for Nickel Belt and the opposition Health Critic raised the issue in the Ontario legislature Wednesday when she revealed that senior citizens can have a difficult time because they're not being allowed to sit in a waiting room at LifeLabs in some communities within her riding.

“The private lab system in Ontario always always had customer issues. Since the pandemic, the problems have increased to the point that they are literally leaving seniors out in the cold," said Gélinas.

She described a couple of instances where local residents have had difficulties in getting appointments and having to wait outside because of COVID-19 restrictions.

"Yolande Gignac tried for several weeks to get into Lifelabs but they had no record of her requisition. When she was finally able to book an appointment, she worried about how long she would have to wait outside. There is always a crowd waiting outside Lifelabs in her community," said Gélinas.

"Hélène Beauchamp left her home in Gogama to drive to Azilda so she’d be there when Lifelabs doors opened at 8 a.m.. After driving for two hours and waiting an hour outside in the cold, a Lifelabs employee told her they had no record of her appointment," she added.

In another instance, she described the plight of elderly Elie Martel of Capreol, whose daughter Shelley Martel booked him an appointment at the LifeLabs office in Val Caron. Elile Martel was the longtime NDP MPP for Nickel Belt, while his daughter, Shelley, was a cabinet minister in Bob Rae’s NDP government.

"Picture this, an 85 year-old man, who just had surgery, has to wait outside, in the cold, snow and wind, with no place to sit. He cannot wait in his car because there is no receptionist just a lab technologist that comes to the door asking for the next appointment and if you are not there by the door you lose," said Gélinas

She said LifeLabs needs to provide a waiting room solution especially with the arrival or colder weather.

Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,