16 Dec 2010

Review criticises Auckland medical lab changeover

1:11 pm on 16 December 2010

A review of how the change in community medical testing provider for Auckland was handled last year has found major inadequacies with many of those involved.

The review says the changeover from Diagnostic Medlab Limited to Lab Tests largely failed because of flawed contracting, caused by a lack of leadership and oversight by senior managers of Auckland's district health boards.

It says the outcome was not helped by a destabilisation campaign by DML and misleading information from Lab Tests.

But the review says the lab testing service is now efficient and reliable, and has saved about about $10 million a year.

One of the authors of the review, Waikato District Health Board chairman Graeme Milne, says the main problems included the lack of both an overall strategy and an appreciation of the complexity involved in the change.

The former Auckland District Health Board chairman Pat Snedden, says the region's DHBs may not have followed all the right processes, but got the right outcome.

Mr Snedden told Morning Report there was a lack of detail about the service, the incumbent provider was hostile to a change, and health authorities had to take action to make much needed alterations.

DML hopes lessons learned

DML chief executive Arthur Morris says he hopes lessons have been learned from the episode, and says short-term winner-take-all contracts undermine medicine in New Zealand.

Dr Morris says the change was presented as a commercial decision, but was bigger than that

"When people were coming to us voicing their their concerns, we voiced our own concerns," he said.

DML cut staff from more than 700 to fewer than 200 hundred as a result of the change and now provides 10% of community testing.