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NZMA warns of pathologist loss


FROM: Dr Ross Boswell, Chairman NZMA
DATE: Tuesday, 18 July 2006

NZMA warns of pathologist loss

New Zealand may lose pathologists and medical laboratory scientists to overseas countries, following the current round of medical laboratory contract changes, says the New Zealand Medical Association.

Decisions in the current round of medical laboratory contract reviews are being taken piecemeal at a local level, but they may have serious national consequences, says NZMA Chairman Dr Ross Boswell. The recent announcement of a change of contractor in Auckland has major workforce implications.

"Laboratory testing is critically dependent on pathologists, and there is a major worldwide workforce shortage in this field," said Dr Boswell.

"Diagnostic Medlab, the current Auckland provider, employs 37 pathologists from a national workforce of about 200. The termination of their employer's contract will most likely lead many of these to become redundant. Some may choose to take employment with the new provider, or elsewhere in New Zealand, but some will inevitably see this as a trigger to leave for countries such as Australia or the UK where they are in strong demand."

The Auckland announcement follows those from other regions, which imply the closure of existing medical laboratories in Otago, Southland, Nelson and Marlborough.

The workforce problem extends beyond pathologists to medical laboratory scientists, who are also in short supply in New Zealand.

"New Zealand cannot afford the instability that these major changes of service provision cause," said Dr Boswell. "Our country already has difficulty recruiting and retaining medical laboratory staff. Forcing them to face an uncertain future here is a sure way of driving many of them overseas, where their skills are well appreciated."

What is needed is a comprehensive review by the Ministry of Health of all the local DHB reviews of laboratory services, to ensure that that national effects of local decisions are taken into account.


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