Medical Scientists concerned about ACL changes in Bendigo

The Medical Scientists Association of Victoria believes that Australian Clinical Labs’ decision to close the St John of God Hospital pathology laboratory places patient safety and healthcare standards at risk.

Closing this laboratory, moving medical scientists out of the hospital and relying on point of care testing is dangerous and fraught with risks. Point of care testing is unreliable and not an acceptable substitute for a pathology laboratory. Point of care testing equipment performs a very limited range of tests, is notoriously unreliable and can’t guarantee accurate final patient test results.

This decision follows ACL’s decision in July 2017 to close the microbiology laboratory in the Bendigo Hospital, leaving Bendigo and the surrounding area with a seriously diminished pathology service.

The Union believes that ACL’s decisions to close pathology laboratories and sack scientists at these two Bendigo hospitals in reality dismantles pathology services and pulls back from a world class service as ACL claims.

A Safer Care Victoria investigation into the closure of the Bendigo Hospital microbiology lab recommended significantly enhanced governance arrangements and found that into the future international infection control standards should be applied in hospitals. The most significant of these is to keep microbiology laboratories in hospitals, and highlights the clinical dangers of moving microbiology testing to ACL’s laboratory in Clayton, 3.0 hours away by car.

The Union believes that incidents of patient samples going missing or spoiling and serious delays in test results caused by transport delays that emerged immediately after the microbiology laboratory was closed by ACL have persisted and are now compounded by the SJOG Hospital lab closure.

Scientists are reporting to the Union that after waves of redundancies, the reduced staffing levels has increased workloads to the point where the laboratory can’t complete clinical testing in required timeframes, and local work that should be done in the hospital laboratory is being sent to ACL’s Clayton laboratory, resulting in even further delays.

Scientists’ morale has plummeted and complaints from doctors about delays have dramatically escalated.

These are serious issues which will jeopardise patient safety in both hospitals and demonstrate the failings of point of care testing and promised enhanced governance. Point of care testing does not substitute for a scientist performing high quality pathology testing in a laboratory, and moving pathology testing down the highway after the hospital microbiology laboratory was closed.

Having fully functioning pathology laboratories in the Bendigo and SJOG hospitals is the only way to ensure the highest possible care and safety for patients. The State Government is well aware of the concerns of the Union and scientists but maintains a hands-off approach stating that there adequate arrangements in place to protect patient safety.

The Union will continue to keep up the pressure on SJOG, Bendigo Hospital, ACL and the State Government to make sure that in-house pathology testing is returned at SJOG and Bendigo Hospital. And in an election year it is vital we make healthcare a key election issue.

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