Under-fire SA Pathology braces for hundreds of job cuts

The union representing SA Pathology staff says the quality of services provided by the embattled organisation can only fall when hundreds of jobs are cut in the coming years.

Apr 04, 2016, updated Apr 04, 2016

SA Pathology is under fire for giving around 100 South Australian patients false-positive prostate cancer diagnoses and, Health Minister Jack Snelling says, attempting to cover the problem up.

SA Health last year confirmed it would cut 332 jobs from SA Pathology, following the recommendations of an Ernst & Young report it commissioned.

But Public Service Association senior industrial officer Simon Johnson told InDaily this morning SA Pathology staff were already overworked and under-resourced, and hundreds of job losses would only degrade the organisation’s ability to provide high-quality services.

“We have concerns about our members’ current workload,” Johnson said.

“They’re tired, they’re overworked (and) they’re under-resourced.

“If you’re going to cut 332 jobs, you’re going to cut services.”

He said that while the job cuts were expected to occur in 2017 and 2018, “we still don’t know where these 332 jobs are going to come from”.

An SA Health spokesperson told InDaily this afternoon that an “implementation plan” had been developed by SA Pathology and Ernst and Young, and that “we are consulting with staff and unions and changes will be implemented over a two year period”.

“As announced in December 2014, an independent review conducted by Ernst and Young highlighted that the overall efficiency of SA Pathology is significantly less than interstate and relevant international peers,” the spokesperson said.

 SA Pathology executive director Ken Barr was sacked following a report about the false diagnoses in the Sunday Mail.

Snelling told 891 ABC Radio this morning there were there are “a few bad apples” in SA Health and “we do need to weed them out”.

“I do think there are a very small number of people in SA Health who don’t think they’re accountable to anyone,” he said.

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Johnson said SA Pathology “seems to be an empire in its own right”

“Our members feel a great distance between themselves and the executive,” he said.

Snelling said the reason for the false cancer diagnoses was not yet certain.

However, he said, “the problem seems to go back with the testing kits that are provided by an outside company”.

“The testing kit being provided by this independent company (was) … basically a faulty batch that SA Pathology have been provided with.

“We are in the process of appointing someone to come in from outside to conduct an independent review of what happened, why it happened and I’ll give you an undertaking now when that report’s completed we’ll make it public.”

Snelling said it was “completely unacceptable to be being told by a journalist about a problem before I’ve had an opportunity to be appropriately briefed by the department”.

“That’s why the department’s taken the action that it has; that’s why I’ve ordered an independent investigation,” he said.

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