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Cuts to Medlab services in Blenheim

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 14:02 31/03/2014

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Cuts to medical laboratory services in Blenheim were an economic decision to ensure it remained viable, Nelson Marlborough's medical boss says.

Last year the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board approved Southern Community Laboratories' decision to reduce lab services at its Medlab South laboratory in Maxwell Rd.

Its chief executive, Dr Peter Gootjes, said the laboratory was reduced to a morning service closing at 12.30pm. Two scientists and two technicians were made redundant, while three members of staff have had partial redundancies and now work fewer hours as part of the cuts.

Fewer blood collections in the afternoon contributed to the decision to reduce lab hours, he said.

"This now matches staffing levels better with the workload."

Blood collections required in the afternoon were still available at Wairau Hospital until 5pm.

Gootjes said routine and non-urgent GP lab test were sent to Nelson for processing twice daily.

All work from Wairau Hospital, urgent GP referrals and some other testing continued to be processed at the Wairau Hospital laboratory.

He said this would not impact on the time GPs and patients had to wait for lab results.

"Regardless of processing location, results continue to be reported back to the GP electronically prior to commencement of the next working day."

At a meeting of the health board last week, the new system came under fire from Marlborough man John Kersaw.

Kersaw said he felt the board's decision to rubber stamp the laboratory cuts had let down the people of Blenheim.

"Why would [the board] think it reasonable to accommodate the request of a commercial entity [Southern Community Laboratories] who is contracted to the board," he said.

Chief executive Chris Fleming said the board had negotiated with Southern Community Laboratories to ensure the Maxwell Rd lab would remain open in the morning.

"We need to make sure we offer a sustainable health service across the top of the south. We looked at demand. We made a decision on where would we rather invest and focus our priorities based on our focus of ‘one service, two sites'.

"It was an economic decision taking into account there is wider access within a reasonable distance within Blenheim. At the end of the day, we have to have a viable laboratory service."

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- The Marlborough Express

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