SDHB in new talks on radiology

Southern breast-screening staff have to wait longer to know whether they keep their jobs, because the health board is in talks to outsource another service.

Staff had been told applications for jobs with new breast-screening provider Pacific Radiology Group would open this week.

However, the Southern District Health Board is in new talks with Pacific over it providing the radiological component of diagnostic breast-care.

Previously, health unions criticised the board for not deciding the future of screening and the diagnostic service at the same time.

Public Service Association southern region organiser Julie Morton said when contacted this week the delay and uncertainty for staff was hugely stressful.

''We're told that Pacific Radiology want more time to look at the implications, given they're going to pick up the diagnostic work as well.''

''While that makes some sense, the difficulty is the screening work has to be handed over by a certain date, so we actually do need to get on with it.''

The two services were ''inextricably linked'' and it was obvious one could not stand without the other. Ultimately, the move was good for patients, who benefited from the services staying together, she said.

Screening is a national service the health board announced last year it was giving up, citing a lack of radiologists.

Pacific Radiology chief executive Lance Lawler said the organisation wanted to get the jobs situation finalised as soon as possible. It was hoped applications would open next week.

It was an ''anxious'' time for Pacific Radiology, as it had to have its screening service up and running in August.

''We're running out of time ... we are as interested as anybody in getting this sorted out,'' Dr Lawler said.

Patient services director Lexie O'Shea said in a statement the board would continue to provide the breast surgeon, breast-care nurse, administration staff, quality and co-ordination functions of the breast service.

''This model would ensure that southern patients have the right expertise available to them, in what will be a much more sustainable service.''

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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