Outsourcing is undermining public healthcare

There is a lot to be said about this year’s state and federal budgets. In both cases critical clinical services have been overlooked resulting in public health services continuing to allow private providers to downgrade quality and service levels.

In some health services we are currently witnessing a rapid decline in standards of healthcare and patient safety as private health providers make very significant changes to services based on commercial interests.

We’re getting a grim picture of how much private pathology providers are dictating public health standards by moving work out of regional and rural areas and centralise it in Melbourne. We’re witnessing this happening at Kyneton Hospital, the continuing of the contract with Dorevitch at Latrobe Regional Health and at Western Health despite a government report indicating there were significant contract compliance and administration problems with Dorevitch at LRH. Now we are witnessing this at Barwon Health as Australian Clinical Laboratories attempts to shift more testing work to Melbourne despite the assurances of former CEO of Barwon Health that they would not be allowed to do this.

The very worrying trend is that health service Executives and Boards are not lifting a finger to stop private providers implementing changes that are contrary to patient safety and clinical standards.

Instead of better healthcare, we get in pathology services closures of microbiology and other specialist services, redundancies of senior scientists, escalating workloads and widespread dysfunction in laboratories.

The MSAV has long been reporting that quality standards in pathology have been declining. Unfortunately, we are now witnessing a more rapid decline turnaround times, to the point that Bendigo Health Doctors this week publicly expressed concerns that patient safety is being seriously compromised.

The dangers of making scientists work longer hours and undertaking more work are obvious. As the scientific workforce is made smaller and the amount of work grows, there comes appoint at which either quality standards suffer or the workforce suffers, or more likely both.

This is serious business; without medical scientists there is no clinical diagnosis and no treatment. Likewise, delayed turnaround times means delayed diagnosis and delayed treatment. Each scenario has dire consequences for patient safety.

We cannot continue outsourced clinical services, like pathology. There is no place in public health for private equity firms to determine levels of clinical quality and patient safety by cutting scientific staff and downgrading services.

Every time the government cuts funding to our universal healthcare system, the more we’re allowing private equity to dictate the future level of healthcare we receive.

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