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Hospital laboratory upgrade underway

A major upgrade of Waikato District Health Board’s main laboratory started this week, with a focus on improving patient care.

The $4.5 million refurbishment will create major facility and process improvements and support the laboratory, located at Waikato Hospital, to cope with the growing number of specimens it receives each year.

The work also coincides with the implementation of a new computer system.

Last year, the laboratory produced more than seven million test results, predominantly for Waikato Hospital patients.

Laboratory manager Richard Ward said the refurbishment work, when complete in early 2012, would improve turnaround times of test results enabling earlier diagnosis and treatment.

“Better turn around times will be the key service improvement and the new layout will also allow us to implement system improvements made possible by a new computer system.”

Originally opened in 1972, some minor refurbishment work was completed in the 1980s but Mr Ward said over the years, laboratory testing has become more complex and the introduction of large automated analyser equipment has resulted in an extremely cramped environment for staff.

Mr Ward said the new layout would permit more efficient use of the space available and allow staff to work more effectively.

“The new open plan layout will allow us to improve our processes and work collaboratively across all disciplines,” he said.

A Physical Containment (PC) 3 room will also be established for testing highly infectious specimens safely.

The refurbishment will also help ensure the DHB retains IANZ accreditation.

Almost 140 staff are employed to work in five areas of the laboratory – haematology, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology and virology.

The relocation of histology, cytology to new premises above the hospital’s Pharmacy in 2009, and blood testing and specimen collection services to other facilities earlier this year, has allowed the remaining lab specialities to expand into the vacated area – making room for construction to begin.

Staff will undergo a number of moves during the seven stages of work scheduled for completion in March 2012.

Building Programme director Ian Wolstencroft said it would be a complex job for the contractor, Hawkins Construction Ltd.

“They are working in a highly clinical, sterile and live environment so there will be difficulties that require ongoing mitigation throughout the project.

“The effects of construction, particularly noise and the need to contain any work to a defined area, will be something of consideration right through to completion.”

The laboratory upgrade is part of Waikato DHB’s ongoing Building Programme at Waikato Hospital.

ENDS

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