Crawford hits back at union claims

UNION officials had not raised any concerns about staffing of the pathology laboratory at the Grafton Base Hospital in eight meetings last year and one meeting this year, North Coast Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said yesterday.

Mr Crawford this week announced an investigation into the operations of the laboratory after it was stripped of its accreditation in February without his knowledge.

In The Daily Examiner yesterday Lismore Base Hospital health services union vice-president Therese Crollick said failings at the laboratory identified in the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accreditation process were the result of management issues that had been going on for years.

But yesterday Mr Crawford hit back.

He said that in eight joint consultative committee meetings with the union last year and a further meeting this year, staffing levels at the lab had not been raised.

Nor did he have any recollection of staffing levels being raised during meetings with the Grafton Base Hospital medical staff council.

Mr Crawford said that since August last year an extra 20 hours of temporary employment a week had been provided to the lab.

He also took offence at claims that he had not supported staff.

"I have never said there was any question of competence of staff," he said.

"I haven't put the blame on anyone. It would be improper to do that because we are undertaking a review. Blaming anyone before that is complete would be premature."

Mr Crawford said it was legitimate to examine existing work practices as part of the review.

He would meet staff next week to 'clear the air' and to hear their views first hand.

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