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Laboratories in Canterbury Overview

Laboratories in Canterbury Overview

Canterbury laboratory testing services have continued almost uninterrupted following February 22nds Earthquake.

Staff at Canterbury Health Laboratories is the CDHB lab located opposite Christchurch Hospital, have worked tirelessly to restore laboratory testing services, and within an hour immediately following the earthquake the laboratory had received its first sample for testing.

The time line:
1215 Earthquake
1305 First patient bled in ED
1332 Sample arrived in Lab
1344 Sample reported
The statistics
53 minutes total time
39 minutes Turnaround time
12 minutes in lab time

The laboratory is located opposite Christchurch Hospital, and the structure has similar earthquake ‘proofing’ construction as New Zealand Parliament. CHL is one of New Zealand’s largest medical diagnostic laboratories, and acts as a reference laboratory for referrers across New Zealand, able to conduct in excess of 2000 different tests, with an average of 2500 specimens collected and tested daily from across the country.

CHL has been working with Civil Defence to ensure welfare centres and the Australian Triage Hospital, have been well equipped with supplies, and collection of samples, and continue to monitor their needs.

There are no concerns regarding capacity, and CHL is able to process testing from all of Canterbury and the CDHB Hospital sites.

On Tuesday 1st March, CHL processed 23% above normal volumes. Contingency planning between CHL and Medlab South will ensure ability to process 150% above normal volume. This means they can process the entire CDHB laboratory workload, both hospital and community and will have capacity through staffing and equipment to maintain this throughout the CDHB.
Of the three community providers, two have sustained major damage, and are unable to return to their buildings. All three laboratories are now working together to ensure all laboratory testing, particularly in the community continues with little disruption to patients.

CHL are working with Medlab to integrate their staff to work side by side within the CHL premises opposite Christchurch Hospital. The aim of this collaborative effort is to ensure uninterrupted hospital and community testing.
Southern Community Laboratories has arranged for urgent testing to come to CHL, and routine non urgent tests to be conducted from their Dunedin laboratory.

Very few samples were lost and Medlab, with the approval of Civil Defence, managed to retrieve all of their histology specimens. These specimens are undergoing testing and will have their analysis completed by hisopathologists from both CHL and MLS and reported to GPs before end of the week.

All hospital blood collection facilities are open for community patients needing a blood test. Information for the public regarding other open collection facilities is available from


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