05/03/2016 13:35 EDT | Updated 05/04/2017 01:12 EDT

Alberta to revamp medical lab testing; sets higher bar for private labs

EDMONTON — Alberta is revamping how it delivers medical laboratory services and the health minister says the bar is going to be higher for any private companies.

Sarah Hoffman says the government is moving towards an integrated, publicly run system.

She says private labs can still participate, but must show they can provide a service that has a clear benefit to patients and taxpayers.

"In those cases where private companies are considered, they will need to demonstrate there is a clear benefit to Albertans," Hoffman said Tuesday.

The decision reverses policy that was being pursued by the former Progressive Conservative government.

The Tories decided 18 months ago to consolidate almost all private lab services in the Edmonton region under an Australian company for 15 years at a cost of $3 billion.

Hoffman cancelled that plan last fall. She said she was not convinced that privatization provides the best level of care at the best price.

Instead, there will be an extra $2 million to address lab demand pressures in the capital region.

A report delivered by the Health Quality Council of Alberta said the original plan to outsource to the private sector was risky and had a "lack of clarity" about the true cost of transition, capital and operations.