09 September 2009

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) today expressed the growing concern and frustration of its members over the laboratory services situation in Auckland during the transition of service provision from Diagnostic Medlab (DML) to the new contractor, Labtests.

NZMA Chair Dr Peter Foley said “Our Auckland members and their patients have become used to a very high standard of laboratory service, and there is quite extreme frustration being expressed at the problems they are encountering as the new arrangements are progressively introduced throughout the three Auckland region DHBs. Frankly, the level of service reported to the NZMA is unacceptable in many respects, resulting in a number of patients not receiving appropriate care when they need it”. “It is a concern that at least one major Auckland PHO has been so concerned that it is committing extra funding to source the needed care from elsewhere. This is another unplanned cost to our fragile health system.”

Dr Foley said “We acknowledge that there is a transition process underway, and that some of these issues can be resolved in time. However, we pointed out to successive governments and the DHBs that the transition period was going to be a critical time in the process, and that it carried substantial risk that services would be jeopardised. We were assured that planning and contractual arrangements would be adequate to ensure both quality, and continuity of the service. Sadly, our fears are being realised, and the problems which have emerged have caused a serious loss of confidence in the service, and those that made the original decision”.

“We and our members are not convinced by the re-assuring messages which emanate from the DHBs and the new provider, because they do not tally with the messages we are hearing from doctors and their patients. We are calling on the Minister of Health to urgently put in place an independent review process to monitor the situation, and to recommend any necessary actions which need to be taken to ensure the continuity of high quality laboratory services to the people and doctors of Auckland” said Dr Foley.