Early Transition of Clinical Pathology Services
2 September, 2013
Early Transition of Clinical Pathology Services
Labtests Auckland Ltd has purchased Diagnostic MedLab’s (DML) clinical pathology and collection service operations.
Dr Margaret Wilsher, Auckland DHB’s Chief Medical Officer made this announcement today in her capacity as Chair of the committee overseeing the transition of community-referred laboratory services. She says patients and the medical community should benefit from earlier improved access to laboratory services and reduced duplication of clinical pathology operations.
Labtests and DML have taken a commercial decision that brings forward a service transition that was originally planned for completion in October 2014, when DML’s current contract to deliver clinical pathology diagnostic services expires.
Detailed planning has been occurring since March. The Auckland metro DHB Chief Executive Officers and Chief Medical Officers are satisfied that all parties are working diligently on a smooth operational transition and continuation of high quality clinical pathology and laboratory testing services into the future.
Dr Wilsher confirmed that the transition of clinical pathology services will now be staged over an eight week period from mid-October 2013. Progress will continue to be monitored by the oversight committee, that Dr Wilsher chairs, to ensure continuing quality, the best outcome and minimal disruption for patients, referring clinicians and staff.
Labtests will require a number of additional laboratory and collection services staff in the immediate future and plans are in place to recruit DML personnel to ensure capacity is in place to accommodate Labtests’ increased workload. Labtests will also take over some existing DML collection centres to increase the total number of centres in its collection network. All patients, regardless of their referrer, will be able to attend any collection centre in Auckland from late October.
Histology services currently undertaken by DML and Labtests are not affected by the acquisition and will be transferred to Auckland DHB’s LabPLUS management prior to October 2014 as already planned. This transfer will address DHB concerns about histology services being fragmented across more than one provider. Detailed planning for the histology transition is now progressing with timing to be confirmed later this year.
“Our focus over the next 3 months is to ensure a smooth transition of clinical pathology services from DML to Labtests. This transition will reduce duplication of services and enable continuing investment in quality services for patients and the medical community. We have a valued workforce and are working hard to ensure staff retention.” Dr Wilsher said.
Further detail on the timing of the transition and when patients and referrers can expect changes to occur will be progressively released over the next few weeks. Labtests and DML will be engaging with patients, referrers and medical practices to ensure that all parties are well prepared and that they understand how the transition will impact them.
Notes to the Editor:
Clinical pathology is the diagnosis of disease based on the laboratory analysis of bodily fluids such as blood, urine and tissues using the tools of chemistry, microbiology, haematology and molecular pathology.
Histology is the examination of cells and tissues by sectioning and staining, followed by examination under a microscope.
The metro Auckland DHBs, Labtests Ltd and Diagnostic Medlab Ltd (DML) have been working collectively to plan the most appropriate service delivery arrangement for community-referred laboratory services to meet the future needs of patients, practitioners and the workforce.
A contract extension term to 30 September 2014 was offered to and accepted by DML in March. However; clinical pathology, mobile testing and collection services operations have now been purchased by Labtests.
This means that:
o DML’s ‘Core Lab’ workload will be undertaken by Labtests from 14 October 2013. This workload is mainly automated and includes biochemistry, immunology, microbiology and haematology.
o From 28 October Labtests will operate the collection centres for the Auckland region, improving access for patients and reducing duplication. For example all patients, regardless of referrer, will be able to access any of the 58 available collection centres
o Although changes affecting the public and clinicians will be limited, Labtests and the DHBs will provide detailed information to inform the public and clinical communities about how the new service model will affect them.
Prior to 1 October 2014 histology services currently undertaken by DML and Labtests will be transferred to LabPLUS. This will address DHB concerns about the clinical viability of fragmented histology services. Detailed planning of this transition is now also well underway.
DML will continue to provide the cervical cytology service, which operates under a separate Ministry of Health contract.
The Auckland DHBs acknowledge the significant expertise that exists amongst DML and Labtests employees and will work closely with DML, Labtests and LabPLUS to ensure this expertise is retained. In particular:
o Labtests will require a number of additional ‘Core Lab’ and collection services staff in the immediate future. Plans are in place to recruit DML personnel to ensure capacity is in place to accommodate the increased workload at Labtests.
o LabPLUS will require a significant number of additional histology positions when these services transition from DML and Labtests over the next year.
The proposed arrangements will:
o Reduce duplication of resources within the delivery of collection services
o Streamline reporting of results for patients and referrers
o Reduce the investment required in equipment. Some of the expensive and highly automated equipment in our laboratories has the capacity to process considerably higher volumes than is currently being put through them
o Enable our workforces to be deployed more efficiently
These factors will enable the DHBs to deliver services for a lower cost than would have been possible otherwise.