Hospital scientist Steve Alvarez.
Hospital scientist Steve Alvarez. Karin von Behrens

PHOTOS: Behind the scenes at Lismore's pathology lab

NSW Health Pathology Lismore, attached to the Lismore Base Hospital, opened its doors for a rare behind-the-scenes tour this week as part of International Pathology Day.

Lab manager Michelle McPherson said the organisation became a state wide entity earlier this year, and was now part of "the biggest public pathology network in Australia".

"The other states are a bit envious," she said.


The change allows the group to have standard instruments, buying power, standardised testing across all hospitals in NSW and gives them access to a network of "300 other pathologists".

A tour of the Lismore facility revealed, although it should come as no surprise, the degree to which much of the testing is automated.

The Architect ci8200, for example, is a machine which is able to conduct up to 50 different tests on multiple vials of blood simultaneously.

The specimens can arrive from inside the hospital via a suction operated tube system, before being allocated to the various departments and staff members for analysis, or arrive from external sources.

The lab operates 24/7. This means night shift staff must be trained in all vital aspects of analysis, as illness is often inconveniently timed.

In addition to the analysis of blood, other body parts are also examined.

Head of the anatomical pathology department, Jacqui Simonds, said a sense of humour was required to work in this section: "It would just destroy you otherwise, much of what we do has a bad prognosis (for the patient)".

Before blood is given to a patient, the transfusion department is responsible for determining whether a donors blood is compatible with the blood of an intended recipient, and testing for the presence of antibodies against the antigens of donor blood.

The pathology laboratory at Lismore dispenses over 3000 units of blood per year and are also responsible for the supply of emergency group O negative to outlying hospitals and the Westpac Helicopter service.

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