Canterbury’s community laboratories service provider confirmed

Monday December 12, 2011

​Southern Community Laboratories has been awarded the contract to partner Canterbury Health Laboratories to deliver an integrated laboratory service in Canterbury, with effect from April 1, 2012. Medlab South will continue to provide their normal services from their Christchurch base until the end of March next year.

Today (December 12, 2011) the Canterbury District Health Board met with Medlab South, Southern Community Laboratories (SCL) and CDHB-owned Canterbury Health Laboratories to agree a plan for keeping patients, staff and stakeholders informed while details of the transition to the new two-lab system are worked through.

Successful negotiations following a special board meeting on Friday were able to resolve some of transition arrangements quicker than expected, freeing the Canterbury District Health Board to make the announcement today, three days ahead of schedule. Staff at the labs were briefed by their chief executives at 4.30pm today.

The CDHB’s General Manager Planning and Funding, Carolyn Gullery said all parties were keen to shorten the time timeframe in order to provide some certainty to staff ahead of speculation that there will be job losses.

“We understand how important this is for people, which is why we want to say what we can as soon as we can. Our main purpose throughout the transition process will be to retain valuable people and their skills within our health system.

“The Canterbury District Health Board were clear that we should work towards ensuring that the vast majority of Medlab South’s staff are assisted in finding suitable work at Southern Community Laboratories or can take up opportunities elsewhere in the Canterbury health system. 

“Medlab South has informed us that 145 of their staff (a mix of full and part-time) will be made redundant from their current role from April next year. However, as Southern Community Laboratories expand their business, they estimate they will need to recruit an additional FTE of 88. Add to that current and anticipated vacancies at Canterbury Health Laboratories and there will be close to the equivalent of 100 full time roles within the new two-lab system,” Ms Gullery says.

In their discussion on Friday, the Board asked that recruitment support and counselling through EAP be offered and that every effort be made to smooth the transition process for people at Medlab South.

Under the auspices of the alliance-based Canterbury Clinical Network, the change to a two lab system is to enable a more integrated ‘whole of health system’ way of working. Part of that process in general is to create a more cooperative environment.

“In the case of the labs contracts, there are currently inefficiencies and duplications. One example might be three separate couriers turning up at a General Practice within minutes of each other to pick up samples to go back to three separate labs,” Ms Gullery says.

“One of the reasons we chose Southern Community Laboratories was because they impressed us with their willingness to work collaboratively with our other lab and their openness to finding new and better ways of working.”


On Friday December 9, 2011, the Canterbury District Health Board held a Special Meeting to consider who should be the preferred provider for the new community laboratory contracts for Canterbury. The official announcement had been held over on the grounds of commercial sensitivity but was brought forward in order to be able to provide more timely information to affected staff.

Extensive earthquake damage to the Christchurch buildings of both existing community laboratories and the imminent expiry of laboratory contracts prompted a review of laboratory services. It was also seen as an opportunity to further a more integrated health system built on collaborative alliances.

Discussions will continue to take place between CDHB, the laboratories, clinical leaders and stakeholders to maximise redeployment opportunities. As part of its preparation during the coming months, Southern Community Laboratories will refit and equip a new laboratory close to Christchurch airport.

Under the new two-lab system, from April 1, Canterbury Health Laboratories will focus predominantly on hospital work and complex tests, while the successful community laboratory will service most of the high volume community demand, mainly from General Practice.​

Page last reviewed: 12 February 2014