Gippsland patients in danger with pathology changes

The Andrews Labor Government and Gippsland’s large public hospitals continue to put patients in danger by allowing Dorevitch Pathology to continue to down grade and remove services from local pathology laboratories.

The Medical Scientists Association of Victoria has an international medical study which shows that the cuts to pathology services in three Gippsland public hospitals will create a very high risk of avoidable patient deaths through delayed pathology testing and treatment. Health bosses in the Latrobe Regional Hospital, Sale Hospital and the Bairnsdale Hospital recently agreed to a new pathology services contract that allows Dorevitch Pathology to sack scientists and move scientific testing from local hospital laboratories to its Melbourne laboratory.

This change will cause delays of up to 48 hours in critical microbiology testing for urgent conditions, such as septic infections.

The study published by the American Society of Critical Care Medicine examined the impact of delayed pathology testing for septic patients and found any delay could result in significantly decreased survival rates.

A delay of 5 – 6 hours in pathology testing and commencement of treatment for sepsis, a common urgent infectious condition, resulted in survival rate of 42% of patients. A delay of 9 – 12 hours resulted in a survival rate of just 25%. Importantly, the study also showed that if testing and treatment of sepsis is done within the first hour patient survival rate is 80%.

The alarm bells are ringing; this change should not proceed. Gippsland patients deserve the same standards of care delivered in Melbourne public hospitals, not third world standards with unacceptable levels of mortality from conditions that are treatable in other Victorian hospitals. And worst still, are entirely preventable.

The Union continues warning of the crisis facing medical scientists and patients in Gippsland and instead of employing more scientists we have health services contracting a pathology provider that has done nothing but move more and more testing away from Gippsland.

It is alarming that health care standards are reduced at any time. It is appalling that in Gippsland patient safety will be compromised because Dorevitch Pathology profits are treated as a higher priority despite the research and the science that tells us this move is dangerous. This study provides irrefutable clinical evidence that the pathology changes about to be introduced are unsafe, and will likely harm Gippsland patients. The American Society of Critical Care Medicine study is an alarm bell and that the changes in pathology must not proceed.

The Union has to ask: will it take the deaths of patients for Gippsland health services and the Andrews Labor Government to finally end the contracting out and diminution of pathology services in Gippsland?

The Union is maintaining its pressure on the Minister for Health, Jenny Mikakos, to intervene to protect Gippsland patients and we encourage members in Gippsland to contact their local Members of Parliament to raise your concerns about the diminution of health care in order to ensure bigger profits for Dorevitch Pathology rather than improve the quality of care patients receive.

Paul Elliott

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