Desperate prognosis for health system one year in

Lab technicians are still seeking progress one year on from the health system reforms, Terry...
Lab technicians are still seeking progress one year on from the health system reforms, Terry Taylor says. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
A year after the health system reforms began, the mood at the coal face is one of despair and frustration, but also of hope, Terry Taylor writes.

I remember last year well when July 1 rolled along, the proud feeling that after nearly four years of numerous meeting submissions, discussions and assurances a new, truly one health system entity, Te Whatu Ora, came into being.

I am writing this during a break from providing the specialised test analysis for some of the most desperate patient situations that our scientists deal with.

It is stressful but rewarding and something medical laboratory professionals across the pathology sector do every day because the specialist scientific expertise they have makes a real difference to the patients whom those samples come from.

This real-time experience is what I take to all political and health leadership discussions, including with Te Whatu Ora.

For the medical laboratory science profession this time last year we had just come through the absolute bedlam and despair of living as a profession caught firmly in the public and political headlights from the pandemic testing response.

We had seen reports and recommendations on how best to move forward for our sector.

We have had political-level reassurances that our well-reported and identified workforce and system issues were to be worked through.

Roll on one year later and it is fair to say there is now despair and frustration resonating through the pathology sector that is no different from our other frontline colleagues.

We have well-documented workforce retention and disparate funding issues for training and pathology service provision.

We still have no operational independent pathology expertise in any national leadership position.

There is no national pathology strategy in place yet.

Like every other sector, we have sat discussing these issues and the direction we need to go in numerous "working groups" that, as of yet, haven’t resulted in any actual tangible operational frontline or training differences.

However, I do have hope — and that is because of the health leadership I have been fortunate to sit in rooms with or have correspondence with.

Some have gone and new leaders have appeared.

But for someone like me the message that is clear is the determination and drive to get us all to a better place resonating from each and every leader.

Yes, there is a huge amount of work to do in the middle management to change the old DHB mentality and "buddy" approaches to service provision.

But as long as the expertise from within the health professional and operational groups are leading the impetus, good things can and will happen.

I will remain optimistic but as I do remind those same leaders the clock is ticking and time is most definitely not our friend here.

The real operational mahi starts now.

— Terry Taylor is president of the New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science.