Life tough after medlab redundancy

Peter Webster was made redundant 40 years to the day after he started at Wairau Hospital's medical laboratory in January 1974.

In charge of the transfusion department, the 59-year-old was responsible for testing blood matches for life-saving transfusions.

His busy job saw him work days, evenings and weekends in addition to being on call 24 hours a day.

He and three co-workers were made redundant after Medlab South's owners Southern Community Laboratories reduced hours of service to a morning operation.

His last day at the lab was January 15, making him unemployed for the first time in his life.

Two months' on, he has been unable to find lab work and has been forced to work night shifts co-ordinating trucks in a vineyard during the harvest.

"Four people were made redundant with over 100 years of experience," he said. "I was hoping for the future of the transfusion service I wasn't going to go.

"The transfusion department was the smallest of the four departments in the lab but in a crisis it is the most important one."

Entering unemployment had been a shocking experience, he said.

"I got depressed, I was stressed and angry by what had happened.

"I have sent out so many CVs, some have refused, some have been rude and many haven't replied."

Webster is hoping to find a lab job within the viticulture industry, but is willing to relocate if a medical lab opportunity comes up elsewhere in New Zealand.

"There are not many jobs available in Blenheim, never mind lab jobs. I really enjoyed my work and I miss it."

Southern Community Laboratories chief executive Peter Gootjes said they had to make "hard commercial calls" which resulted in the redundancies.

Staff were offered alternative positions within their New Zealand-wide network, retraining or given a compensatory payment if a position was not available.

Gootjes assured patient safety remained its "highest priority".

Despite Webster's redundancy, he said the provision of the transfusion services in Wairau Hospital is unchanged with all staff at the laboratory trained to perform blood bank testing.

The Marlborough Express