Breast screening decision causes uncertainty for the future

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A decision by the Southern District Health Board not to renew its breast screening contract will cause a lot of uncertainty for women in Otago and Southland and for staff.

The Board has told the National Breast Screening Unit that it will not be seek to renew its contract from July next year and the service will now be tendered to a new provider.

“This decision puts a big question mark over the future of breast screening services for women in Otago and Southland,” says PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

“The DHB is giving assurances that there will be no interruption of service to women in the south, but in reality there are no guarantees that the new provider will operate the service locally.  Women may find they have to travel to somewhere like Christchurch to get their screening done.”

There is also a lot of uncertainty for staff.  The PSA represents clerical staff who manage and take bookings for breast screening at the DHB.

Richard Wagstaff says without knowing what the new arrangements will be in terms of a new provider, their future employment hangs in the balance.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions in terms of whether any new provider will want to take on existing staff and in that regard, it’s probably our members whose jobs are most at risk.”

The PSA is also concerned that the move to privatise breast screening services will increase the risk of problems occurring, as breast screening will be separated out from the diagnostic breast work which will still be done by the DHB.

‘The consultation on this proposal has been far from ideal and we believe the DHB needs to start giving some clearer answers  to staff and to the women of Otago and Southland over the future of breast screening services,” Mr Wagstaff says.