12 February 2009

Today's ending of legal action concerning Auckland's half billion dollar laboratory service raises concerning questions about how the whole process was handled.

The Supreme Court today dismissed an application for leave to appeal by Diagnostic MedLab, which has held the contract for more than 30 years, against three Auckland region District Health Boards which had awarded the contract to LabTests Auckland Ltd.

The NZMA does not wish to comment on the specifics of the court case.

"However, the NZMA has major and ongoing concerns about how laboratory reviews and contracting processes have been carried out nationally," said NZMA Chair Dr Peter Foley.

"The flawed system of reviews and the contracting approach in Auckland have created confusion and difficulties for an already fragile workforce. We are extremely concerned that many good pathology and other laboratory staff may now choose to leave New Zealand to look for work.

Dr Foley said it was now the responsibility of the Minister of Health to ensure continuity and sustainability of laboratory services in Auckland, and the NZMA will be seeking an urgent meeting with Tony Ryall to discuss how he will ensure this happens, given the obvious disruptions to the many individuals involved.

"Since 2004 the NZMA has been calling for a national policy framework to be put in place for the 21 DHBs which have been carrying out reviews of laboratory services, and making significant changes to suppliers in some cases," Dr Foley said.

"Laboratory services are an essential part of our health service, and vital for the community's health. Decisions about health services should not be made just for cost reasons, or by applying strictly corporate or legal processes. Sustainability, quality, safety, and equity across the entire country are extremely important.

"The previous Government's short-sighted reviews of laboratory services were carried out without a comprehensive national policy framework, and seemed only designed to save money. The poor review process has put the pathology workforce at risk."