Job cuts to keep service 'viable'

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 11:06 24/10/2013

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Proposed changes to laboratory services across the district would see six jobs cut in Blenheim and three new jobs set up in Nelson.

Medlab South's Blenheim clinic, on Maxwell Rd, would no longer open in the afternoon as part of its contract review with the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.

Medlab South is owned by Southern Communities Laboratories and its chief executive Peter Gootjes said most patients preferred having their tests done in the morning.

If patients did require afternoon tests, they could be done at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim, Dr Gootjes said.

The changes were being proposed to ensure the financial viability of the company, he said.

"Southern Community Laboratories, like all businesses, is responding to cost pressures and has to provide services within the dollars it has to operate.

"In an effort to ensure a consistent service, we've taken the responsible step of reviewing how services are delivered and we are proposing a solution that ensures patients and clinical outcomes will not be affected."

The changes would see routine, non-urgent samples transferred from Blenheim and Picton to Nelson Hospital's laboratory, Dr Gootjes said.

Wairau Hospital emergency department, hospital in-patient and time-sensitive testing would still be completed at the Wairau Hospital laboratory, he said.

Patients and doctors would notice little difference.

"We would continue to support all clinical services at the Wairau Hospital in the same way we do now.

"We would also continue to support any urgent services required for community patients at the Wairau Laboratory," he said.

The company would still have the ability to carry out blood tests in Blenheim in the event of transport disruption between Blenheim and Nelson, and this would be done in priority order, Dr Gootjes said.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the board had been assured no patient care would be delayed as a consequence of the proposed changes.

No patients would have to travel to Nelson as it was only the processing of blood and specimens collected in Wairau that would be transported across, Mr Fleming said.

"We are satisfied that Southern Communities Laboratories can deliver contracted laboratory services within agreed time frames if their proposal to centralise routine testing in Nelson goes ahead."

The service would be monitored to ensure appropriate time frames were maintained for all laboratory test results, he said.

Southern Communities Laboratories is consulting with staff and unions on the proposal until November 5.

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A final decision is expected to be announced on November 15.

- The Marlborough Express

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