Plans for Taranaki’s new medical laboratory are up in the air and two unions have slated the health board’s handling of the situation as “shambolic” and “foolish.”
On Friday the Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB) confirmed they were revisiting their plans for the new, purpose-built lab run by a single, private provider after a change in government policy.
Medical laboratory workers’ union APEX’s national secretary Dr Deborah Powell said the DHB’s attempt to set up the new lab had been a mess from the beginning.
“It comes after a very long and tortuous, and in our view, badly managed process,” she said.
“We raised concerns from day one.”
She said there were a number of issues with the way the DHB went about finding a provider, and the lack of preparation they had put into developing specifications that provider would need to meet.
“It’s been a shambolic process.”
TDHB chief executive Rosemary Clements said calling it shambolic was unfair.
“It was a robust process that was well considered and consulted on,” she said.
Since the TDHB announced the plans for the new lab in 2016 they have come under fire multiple times for failing to consult with unions and for initially stating they were in talks with their preferred private provider, MedLab without exploring the market.
They later backed out of the negotiations with MedLab, who had 50 per cent of the DHB’s laboratory services contract, moved to a Request For Proposal (RFP) tender process and were then criticised for misleading staff – a claim the TDHB denied.
“This process was conducted in good faith on both parts. Once it became clear that the DHB would need to move to a RFP process, this did mean it took longer than expected to find a provider who could best meet the needs of our community,” Clements said.
Despite the way it had been handled to date, Deborah Powell said a new lab was essential for the running of the healthcare system in Taranaki.
This was heightened by concerns the current laboratory posed health and safety risks and was in danger of not meeting the requirements for recertification as an accredited medical laboratory, she said.
“A new lab has to be a priority for this district health board.”
Clements said the board was revisiting its plans.
“The hospital laboratory is requiring considerable attention and the DHB is now reconsidering its options.”
Executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Ian Powell, unrelated to Deborah Powell, said senior doctors were pleased the TDHB had put the brakes on the plan to privatise the laboratory services.