New Zealand’s Health System Walks Pathology/Lab Testing Tightrope

Government efforts to reduce funding for lab tests may boomerang in coming years

Dateline: Christchurch, New Zealand-Here in the land of kiwis and enthusiastic rugby fans, pathology and laboratory services don’t seem to get much respect from regional health districts of the New Zealand Department of Health. There are fears that too much of this type of budget cutting will undermine the quality of laboratory testing in those communities.

In at least two major metropolitan regions of New Zealand, the regional health districts are using single-source tenders (contract bidding) for pathology and laboratory testing services as a way to drive down the price they pay for laboratory testing. One consequence of these tender efforts is an immediate reduction in the number of private pathology testing providers in these cities, since just one medical laboratory is granted an exclusive, multi-year contract to provide laboratory testing services to office-based physicians across that region.