Stawell, Ararat pathology services at risk; St John of God health services restructure proposed

INADEQUATE funding could mean hospitals at Stawell and Ararat will lose pathology services under a St John of God health services restructure.

St John of God Pathology has told hospital, medical and pathology staff at East Grampians Health Service in Ararat and Stawell Regional Health about a proposal to provide a more sustainable pathology service without laboratories on site. 

The changes will also affect hospitals at Kerang and Kyabram.

St John of God chief executive Michael Hogan said funding for pathology services in public hospitals could not support the significant laboratory infrastructure that St John of God Pathology had in place at smaller sites, given the relatively low volume and complexity of testing required. 

Mr Hogan said laboratory staff at Stawell and Ararat would be affected by the proposed closures.

“We are endeavouring to provide redeployment opportunities for these employees and we will support them through this process,” he said. 

Stawell Regional Health acting chief executive Liz McCourt said the changes would dramatically affect services.

“It will impact our ability to provide a fast turnaround for pathology results,” she said.

“We offer chemotherapy three days a week and we are concerned about the ability of our oncologists to deliver timely and safe treatments.

“When a patient comes in for chemotherapy, we check their blood to determine if they can have chemotherapy on that day, so it’s important we can offer a fast and reliable service.”

Ms McCourt said St John of God’s proposal was disappointing.

She said four hospital scientists would be affected by the changes.

“Some of these people have worked in the hospital for 19 years,” she said.

East Grampians Heath Service chief executive Nick Bush said he would like to see the status quo retained.

“However, St John of God has made it clear that things need to change,” he said.

“They have said they won’t make any changes that are going to impact our service delivery and until they can guarantee that, they won’t change anything.

“We are working with St John of God to make sure our services are continually supported.”

Mr Hogan said the proposed changes would see urgent tests done on site, but other testing would be done at laboratories in Horsham, Bendigo and Ballarat. 

“We are confident that we will be able to continue to provide a safe and effective service for local doctors and patients,” he said.

Mr Hogan said discussion with hospital administration and doctors was ongoing.


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