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Pathology services at risk

Dr Jackie Blue National Party Associate Health Spokeswoman

2 April 2006

Pathology services at risk

The current review of pathology contracts by the 21 District Health Boards could result in a worse service for New Zealanders, says National Party Associate Health spokeswoman Dr Jackie Blue.

"Clearly, there has been no 'big picture' overview by Health Minister Pete Hodgson and consequently the emerging picture is one of chaos," says Dr Blue.

"With 21 DHBs all doing their own thing, arriving at 21 different solutions and having no appreciation of the effect they could have on the wider sector and workforce, fragmented services and standards could result.

"Most DHBs, as a cost-cutting exercise, are looking at bringing privately run community pathology services back into their hospitals.

"This could be misguided. In Wellington, we have a DHB facing a $10 million deficit, which is considering bringing back community pathology services it has contracted to the private sector for the past 70 years.

"It is astonishing that this DHB, which clearly can't manage its own budget, now thinks it can provide a better service.

"If the DHB is successful in awarding the contract to itself, the private provider could be forced to cut 100 of its 230 staff.

"Pathologists and their technical staff are highly sought after internationally. We cannot afford to lose them.

"The protracted negotiations taking place around the country are making staff very nervous. Private laboratories that lose their contracts with DHBs will have to look seriously at continued viability. Exiting is a real possibility.

"There is no guarantee that pathology staff will stay in New Zealand, move back to the public sector or move to other parts of New Zealand to fill vacancies.

"Pete Hodgson needs to step in, show some leadership and settle the sector down immediately," says Dr Blue.

ENDS

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