State to probe pathology amid union accusations

THE State Government has launched a review of the services contract between Latrobe Regional Hospital and a private pathology company, amid union accusations of a decline in standards.

The review will aim to ensure all parties are meeting the terms of the contract and the community is receiving the best pathology services available, a spokesperson for Acting Health Minister John Eren said.

The Medical Scientists Association of Victoria claims major operational changes by Dorevitch Pathology, such as shifting “vast amounts of testing” out of the LRH laboratory, have impacted on the company’s capacity to meet quality and service standards.

The MSAV claims the hospital “failed to act”.

Union secretary Paul Elliott argues that Dorevitch has violated the pathology services contract which he says includes a requirement for pathology testing and services to be performed in the LRH lab.

“The closer the testing is to where treatment occurs, the quicker the turnaround time is,” Mr Elliott said.

“If you move a sample to Heidelberg, you are going to risk turnaround times and the quality of healthcare in hospital.”

In June, the union hit out at Dorevitch over a decision to transfer tissue processing services from the hospital lab to Melbourne, arguing it would increase turn-around times and affect patient care.

But Dorevitch said the centralisation of its histology service would in fact reduce turn-around times, while LRH said it had been assured its tests would receive the highest priority at the Melbourne lab.

Last week, Dorevitch Pathology chief executive Neville Moller declined to respond to the union’s claims and questions from The Express.

However, he said he welcomed the review.

LRH chief executive Peter Craighead welcomed the government review by Paxton Partners and denied union claims healthcare standards had been allowed to drop at the hospital.

“We have already begun working with the consultants and have full confidence in their review of the management of the pathology contract,” Mr Craighead said.

“Unlike Mr Elliott, we respect the process and won’t be drawn on commentary about the delivery of pathology services by Dorevitch Pathology until we know the outcome of the review.”

Mr Craighead labelled Mr Elliott “mischievous”, saying he was attempting to use LRH, its services and patients in his industrial campaign with Dorevitch.

He said LRH had recently undergone an extensive accreditation process measuring the hospital’s performance in delivering a high standard of healthcare.

“A survey team from the Australian Council of Healthcare Standards examined our policies and processes and determined we had satisfactorily met core national standards and exceeded the level of quality in some areas,” Mr Craighead said.

“LRH has spent considerable time and resources responding to the MSAV’s requests for information and comments in the media and I hope the Paxton Partners review will put some clarity around some of the issues which are of concern to Mr Elliott and the union’s members.”

Health Purchasing Victoria, the statutory authority that works with hospitals to manage collective contracts, said it acted in collaboration with health services.

“With all tenders, HPV is guided in the development of specifications because we recognise that it is health services themselves who best understand their diverse clinical and operational requirements,” HPV acting chief executive Eileen Keane said.

“Every tender response is evaluated by a reference group, comprising of health service clinical and subject matter experts, who develop the strategy, market approach, selection criteria, evaluation and recommendation.

“HPV’s tender process is a robust and competitive process which includes a range of selection criteria, of which contract performance is included. Contract performance is managed by the health services.”

Ms Keane said the authority would work with the department of health and human services to address relevant findings or recommendations from the state government review.