Once a year, time is taken to reflect on the importance of Pathology Services to both medicine and the patients who critically need Pathology results for their treatment. International Pathology Day allows time to appreciate and reflect that modern medicine in its many and various forms require reliable pathology information to ensure successful patient management. International studies have indicated that at least 70% of all medical diagnoses and 100% of all cancer diagnoses rely on results from diagnostic pathology laboratories.
Pathology laboratories provide all the diagnostic testing, screening, and monitoring services for patients from every corner of the motu. They provide the accurate diagnostic testing which requires skills and effective communication from taking a patient’s sample, to providing results and advising clinicians forming the basis of a diagnosis and patient care. New Zealand Pathology laboratories perform over 80 million patient tests on an average year, excluding the massive increase in workload during the COVID pandemic. Pathologists, Scientists and Technicians provide an effective team in providing this seven day a week, 24 hour a day service to the New Zealand population.
But how secure is this vital diagnostic service. Currently training of the specialist scientists who provide the core of this diagnostic service is inadequately funded and places the two university courses under constant threat. No career structure exists for these skilled professionals and the Pathology services are fragmented. There is an international shortage of specialist Pathologists and a failure with attempts to bridge the shortage gap in New Zealand. Health reforms have so far ignored the needs of New Zealand’s Pathology requirements including university training, career structure and future proofing a service that is so essential for modern patient care.
International Pathology Day celebrates the importance of pathology, and it is an absolute credit to our frontline workforce that despite some very difficult situations our services have never faltered, and our expertise and leadership is now being utilised in other parts of the health system.
Our diagnostic laboratory workforce and all those support services associated with the provision of pathology services deserve every accolade for their tireless and dedicated commitment to care for all people in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science (NZIMLS) urges everyone to take a moment on November 9th to think about the role of this highly qualified but not always visible health sector and pledge support for the outstanding mahi performed within our pathology laboratories in Aotearoa New Zealand.