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The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) is the professional association and union uniting doctors and dentists in New Zealand.

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Gobsmacking lack of robust financial analysis for DHBs’ flawed laboratories proposal

2 March 2015 ASMS Media Release

“The three Wellington regional district health boards driving public hospital laboratories toward privatisation have failed dismally to provide any good financial analysis of the benefits of going down this path,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

The Capital & Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa DHBs are due to make a decision shortly about the future of the Wellington and Hutt Valley public hospital laboratories.  Medical specialists and other health professionals are very concerned about the impact on patients and health care if the DHBs decide to privatise the laboratories.

The ASMS lodged an Official Information Act (OIA) request of the three DHBs to find out more about the financial analysis underpinning their apparent pre-determined path to privatisation.  The ASMS asked for the following:

  • total costs for hospital laboratories and hospital laboratory service outputs for the three DHBs for the most recent five years
  • documents providing evidence that integration between community and hospital laboratories ‘may provide better value for money’
  • documents providing a clear explanation as to how the ‘8% savings’ figure was arrived at, what it is based on and the timeframe in which these savings are expected to be made.

“Our questions were very clear: we just wanted to know what their proposal was based on,” says Mr Powell.  “You’d think the DHBs would have this information at their fingertips, given how critical it is to their proposal and the level of concern that has been raised in relation to it.

“Instead, their analysis consists of wishing and hoping, along with a few aspirational statements and some expectations.  In other words, a bit of magical thinking.  It certainly doesn’t inspire confidence that they’re going to make a good decision on the public hospital laboratories.”

Asked for data and analysis, he says the DHBs have responded with a series of aspirational quotes from their various documents.  In addition, their figures show rising costs for running the hospital laboratories in recent years fail to note the bigger increase in service demand over the period.

“The response we received to some very solid questions, which people deserve answers to, was nothing short of gob-smacking. Come on, the people of Wellington deserve better if you’re going to radically change the way public hospital laboratories are run in the face of very strong concerns about the clinical impact.  DHB Boards need to be transparent about the analysis underpinning their proposal.”

A copy of the OIA response from the three DHBs to the ASMS is here.