The Guardian June 20, 2001


Victoria: Scientists strike over staffing crisis

Scientific staff at Monash Medical Centre, Moorabbin Hospital, Bendigo 
Base Hospital and Western Hospital have imposed work bans to protest 
against severe staff shortages in public hospitals. The work bans are 
effective immediately. Scientific staff at the Alfred Hospital walked off 
the job at 9am on Tuesday morning this week in disgust with the 
Government's failure to act.

Scientists at other major public hospitals may also take action which could 
also include walking off the job.

This action is being taken to protest against the Victorian Government's 
failure to resolve the crisis in hospitals which has left unsafe levels of 
staffing in pathology, pharmacy, psychology, audiology and dietetics.

The Medical Scientists' Association of Victoria (MSAV) has been calling on 
the State Government to add 296 new positions to the system as a matter of 
urgency to allow services to be restored to safe levels.

Patients are paying the price for these shortages in terms of reduced 
quality and availability of services. Staff are also paying the price in 
terms of stress and overwork.

The Government has "offered" an increase of 100 positions (up from its 
earlier estimate of 60 positions) over three years.

At a hearing in the Industrial Relations Commission last Thursday, the 
Government was directed to explain how it arrived at the figure of 100 
additional positions, and to clarify whether any of the 100 positions were 
to fix the current "hotspots" identified by the Union and hospitals.

The Government has failed to comply with this direction, but on its own 
admission, the 100 positions relate to projected growth over three years, 
not to the current problems of understaffing.

The Executive Officer of the MSAV, Rosemary Kelly, described the 100 growth 
positions over three years as a "non-offer" and "an insult to scientists 
and the public".

"The Government is doing nothing to address the threat to patient care due 
to the current shortages of scientists", she said.

"This Government was elected on a platform of restoring public health 
services but is refusing to repair the damage done by the job cuts of the 
Kennett years. Scientists are sick of trying to keep the system afloat, and 
watching services deteriorate.

"The Government agreed to employ 1300 additional nurses this financial year 
but is refusing to fund the employment of additional scientific staff who 
provide the unseen services which make the system work  services such as 
pathology, blood cross-matching, nutrition support for transplant and 
cardiac patients, audiology testing prior to surgery, psychological 
services and pharmacy.

"Members' actions are not directed at hospitals or hospital management but 
are aimed squarely at the Government which has precipitated this response 
from scientists", said Rosemary Kelly.

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