Reforming private pathology in public health

In this year’s State budget it was acknowledged that private pathology providers in our public health care system have not delivered, with their significant divestment in people and equipment needed to deliver world-class health care.

The funding delivered in the budget will be used to begin to consolidate existing public pathology laboratories into merged pathology services. The funding will be used to improve capacity and quality in public pathology services and return outsourced hospital laboratories back to public health services.

The Victorian Government allocated nearly $20 million for the first year of pathology reforms with significant additional funding over the next four years; this doesn’t include investment in new technology or equipment. Investment in technology has been done over the past few state budgets but this is the first budget in a very long time that specifically identified direct investment in public pathology services.

The Union has been given a “roadmap” for how the reforms will be implemented, but it does not seem to be much of a plan with very little detail.

The Union has continued discussions with senior department officials who are planning this very significant reform. We continue to advocate for issues of job security and maintenance of pay rates and conditions, including salary packaging. We have demanded that current enterprise agreement coverage must be maintained.

All of the health unions involved in the discussions have made it clear that Government commitments to the issues we have raised are essential to having our ongoing support for the reforms.

The timeframe for the proposed reforms is a critical issue. We have expressed a strong view that the success of the proposed reforms in pathology will depend in large part on quickly returning outsourced pathology back to public hospitals, and any delays in doing this will seriously disrupt the reform process.

Reformed public pathology must be properly funded, resourced and staffed in all laboratories across public health. We are mindful of additional funding allocations for reforms for the next two years, and we will work hard to ensure as much as is needed goes into staffing and resourcing.

The Union will continue to strongly advocate that more investment in staff is vital; and that the consolidation is a truly state-wide approach to restoring public pathology laboratories.

We remain confident there is a genuine commitment to the reforms, and hear the growing strong support for the reforms, especially from regional and rural health services which are anxious to have public pathology services in their hospitals.

It’s clear the government has seen, albeit through the lens of the pandemic, the vital importance of the work of our public pathology laboratories. It’s also clear that the Union’s staunch advocacy for our members to Members of Parliament is paying off, albeit we’d have preferred to see our advocacy acted on much sooner.

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