Pathologists blast cut-price lab plan

By Martin Johnston

Pathologists at Auckland's doomed community medical laboratory have banded together to oppose the new company set to replace their employer.

In a letter to the Herald, 26 of the 37 pathologists who work for Diagnostic Medlab express their "serious concerns" about the awarding of the community laboratory services contract to Labtests Auckland.

From next July, Labtests will assume responsibility for the taking, examination and reporting of blood tests and other human samples from patients referred by GPs and other non-hospital health workers.

Opposition to the contract by Auckland's three district health boards has come from patients, GPs, Diagnostic and its staff.

The health boards say the eight-year, $560 million-plus contract will save them more than $15 million a year compared with the present contract.

The pathologists doubt Labtests' ability "to acquire and staff a purpose-built laboratory capable of processing and accurately reporting approximately 30,000 tests from up to 10,000 patients each day".

Labtests' chief executive Tony Bierre has previously said he hopes to buy Diagnostic's Ellerslie laboratory and attract its staff. Diagnostic has said it is not keen to sell to Labtests.

The pathologists expect the changes will drive lab staff away and that Labtests will inevitably have to cut service levels under the cut-price contract.

Dr Bierre has said that Labtests' service to patients will be of high quality.

Diagnostic's chief executive Arthur Morris said its petition asking the health boards to reconsider had been signed by more than 22,000 people.

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