Dorevitch Pathology and Latrobe Regional Hospital have hit back at the Medical Scientists Association of Victoria over claims the transfer of tissue processing services from the hospital to Melbourne will affect patient care and increase turn-around times.
The private pathology provider said the planned centralisation of its histology – tissue testing – service would in fact reduce turn-around times and it was disappointing the union was “upsetting the community”.
LRH accused the union of using the hospital’s patients as pawns.
MSAV secretary Paul Elliott last week described planned changes by Dorevitch as “another bad sign for quality healthcare in the Latrobe Valley”.
“The sole purpose of these changes is to help Dorevitch’s profits, not help patients. The changes will add further delays to turn-around times for tests for people suffering from cancer,” he said.
“Time and time again Dorevitch Pathology has cut scientists; pathology services and turn-around times for crucial tests with the approval of the hospital’s management and board.”
He claimed the current plans were a violation of Dorevitch’s contract which included a requirement for pathology testing and services to be performed in the LRH laboratory.
Dorevitch Pathology chief executive Neville Moller said the company’s Heidelberg laboratory in Melbourne operated 24 hours, seven days a week and processing tissue there would take two to three days off the turnaround time of tests.
Mr Moller said following the processing of the tissue, slides would be sent to the LRH lab, where four medical anatomical pathologists were still stationed, to examine them and make a diagnosis.
He said the existing turnaround times varied depending on the type of tissue, but the quickest would be 24 to 48 hours.
“(At Heidelberg) we process all through the night, so they can cut the slides and be ready for pathologists on their desks in the morning,” Mr Moller said.
“We’ve got six couriers a day coming back and forth to Traralgon.
“The whole idea is to improve the service, not diminish the service. It’s not impacting on our contract with the hospital. The hospital is supportive of what we’re doing, along with the surgeons.”
He said the new arrangement would also make special testing of tissue quicker, because the sample was already in a laboratory equipped to do so.
Mr Moller said no staff would be made redundant.
One employee had elected to move to Melbourne and all other staff would be given jobs in the current Traralgon lab.
LRH chief executive Peter Craighead labelled the MSAV’s comments as “abhorrent and insensitive”, saying it had targeted cancer patients by claiming LRH was putting their care at risk.
“This is plainly not true “Mr Craighead said.
He said there had been extensive discussions about the Dorevitch Pathology model for processing tissue samples from all patients at LRH – not just those with cancer.
He said medical staff, in particular surgeons, had been included in those discussions.
Mr Craighead said LRH had been assured its tests would receive the highest priority at the laboratory in Melbourne, so turn-around times for results would still be met.
“Contrary to the union’s beliefs, LRH has high expectations of Dorevitch Pathology to meet turn-around times and uphold our healthcare standards.
“If LRH management, our board or our medical staff had concerns that patient care would be affected by the pathology service changes, they would not be going ahead.”