10 Sep 2009

DHBs under pressure over lab testing

8:32 pm on 10 September 2009

Auckland district health boards are coming under increasing pressure to sort out community lab testing amid growing anger from doctors who say the new service is still not good enough.

In August, medical company Labtests took over the $560 million contract for testing from Diagnostic Medlab in Auckland and Counties-Manukau.

The other district health board, Waitemata, began using Labtests this week.

But GPs complain they cannot get through to pathologists to check results and patients are having to wait too long to have their blood taken.

The Medical Association says the gradual switchover of lab testing has resulted in patients not receiving appropriate care and it wants Health Minister Tony Ryall to review the situation.

Association chair Peter Foley says the DHBs promised the transition would be seamless and that the quality of care would not be compromised.

However, Dr Foley says the level of service that its members and patients are getting is unacceptable. He says the problems have created a serious loss of confidence in the testing service.

Problems being addressed - DHB boss

Auckland District Health Board chair Pat Snedden says complaints about substandard service from Labtests are being addressed.

Mr Snedden, who is also the spokesperson for Waitemata and Counties-Manukau DHBs, says staffing numbers have been boosted to end unacceptable delays.

He told Checkpoint a new system is also being introduced which will allow doctors to contact pathologists directly.

Mr Snedden says though Labtests needs to improve its service it is doing so at a rapid rate, and believes patients and GPs can have confidence in the company.

Labtests chief executive Ulf Lindskog says pressure on collection centres is a thing of the past and there are no significant problems with waiting times.

Services are being monitored on an hourly basis and the results will be made public, he says.