Pathology labs failing to meet standards face public scrutiny
Pathology laboratories that fail to meet stringent standards have been placed on notice that they face being named publicly and people at risk from incorrect results will be promptly notified, Health and Ageing Minister, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.
12 March 2002
Pathology labs failing to meet standards face public scrutinyPathology laboratories that fail to meet stringent standards have been placed on notice that they face being named publicly and people at risk from incorrect results will be promptly notified, Health and Ageing Minister, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.
She said she would introduce new legislation if it was required to ensure that the public's right to know was put first when laboratories were identified for producing incorrect results for potentially life-threatening diseases.
Senator Patterson also announced that the hotline (1800 444 101) to give information to women concerned about their pap smear results at laboratories in Victoria and New South Wales had been expanded to cope with the heavy demand. The National Consumer Hotline has been extended from six to 18 lines.
She also moved to allay concerns from women in other States that there was no evidence to date that any other laboratory had failed to reach the high standards required to ensure that pap smear tests were conducted accurately.
Senator Patterson said: "Women can be assured that only those laboratories named - two in NSW and one in Victoria - are of concern.
"Women who have had tests from these laboratories will be informed and advised to discuss with their GPs when they should have their next test.
"Women who have not had tests from these laboratories can be confident that their last test was provided by a laboratory that has met the standards."
Senator Patterson rejected a claim by the New South Wales Health Minister, Craig Knowles, that she had known "for a little while" the problems with two New South Wales laboratories, which were found to have conducted faulty pap smear tests.
"I was informed of this matter on Sunday and I acted on Monday," she said. "It is wrong of Mr Knowles to try and say that I have not acted quickly on this matter of public health."
Senator Patterson said Australians could have faith in the rigorous pathology testing system, which was at world's best practice.
"I believe that in the past there has been a convoluted process in meeting the public's legitimate right to know when a laboratory fails to meet the required standards for testing," she said.
"The process has been too slow. It has focused too much on the needs of pathology services and not enough on the health interests of women having pap smears. We need to get the balance right.
"I am not saying that pathology services will be denied natural justice. However, I am saying that the public interest must be the main concern."
Senator Patterson said she had directed her Department to work with the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) and the College of Pathologists to fix the system to ensure that laboratories that don't meet the standards were identified and pursued, and patients and doctors notified promptly.
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