Chris Crawford.
Chris Crawford.



THE Grafton Base Hospital Northern Rivers Pathology Service (NRPS) laboratory has continued to operate for the past month despite losing its accreditation in February.

But North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford was not informed about the loss of accreditation until last week. He said he was 'very disappointed' with the outcome, as well as the fact he had not been told, and had ordered an urgent report into the matter.

"From what I have been able to ascertain, they didn't understand the full ramifications of losing their accreditation and how significant that was (but) I don't find that a satisfactory response, so I have ordered an explanation which I expect to have by next week," Mr Crawford said.

"Even the man in the street would know that losing your accreditation is not a good thing, so how the people in the organisation didn't realise, I don't know."

NCAHS clinical director Dr David Hutton will head the internal inquiry to find out why the facility did not meet standards required by the testing body, the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA).

Although accreditation for health services is not essential to operate, it acts as a safeguard to ensure procedures are being properly followed.

Mr Crawford said the NRPS was stripped of its accreditation due to failings in management and technical requirements.

"The pleasing thing was that there were no concerns about safety, but that is not to play this down at all," he said.

"There is no suggestion that there were any errors in test results ... which I think is something important for the community. But it was still a wake-up call for the pathology service."

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Mr Crawford would not say whether jobs would be lost as a result of the disaccreditation.

"I always believe in seeing what the outcome of a report will be before commenting on something like that," he said.

An action plan to address issues identified by the NATA is currently being undertaken by the NRPS.

But Mr Crawford said until the service regains it accreditation, all non-urgent pathology specimens taken from patients in Grafton would be tested in Grafton and then rechecked at the NATA-accredited laboratory of Northern Rivers Pathology Service in Lismore.

"Urgent specimens, including blood products for patients undergoing surgery, would be doubletested in Grafton under the supervision of a technical pathology officer from Lismore who was being sent (on Tuesday) afternoon to the Grafton laboratory," he said.

It is expected the laboratory will be reassessed in or before May.

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