Action curbs breast scans 'severely'

Ongoing industrial action by radiographers is described in a report to the Southern District Health Board's hospitals' advisory committee as "severely impacting" on breast screening numbers.

As well as the previously reported postponing of 992 routine screenings, the board's general manager of diagnostic and support services, Sonja Dillon, says no new women are being invited for screening in Invercargill or Dunedin.

Some new women have been screened on the service's mobile unit.

There are now 610 women on the Dunedin waiting list and 85 on the Invercargill list.

Monitoring of re-screening and those on the waiting list was ongoing but timely screening, within 20 to 24 months, was now "unachievable" in Dunedin or Invercargill, Ms Dillon reported.

Waiting times for urgent and semi-urgent mammographies and recall patients seemed to be mostly meeting the target times set by the board last month, a report on outpatient radiology waiting times showed.

Ms Dillon said providing scans for outpatient clinics and general practitioner referrals was also being affected.

The waiting list for MRI scans was continuing to climb.

Southland's waiting times for non-urgent MRI scans (11 weeks) were still better than Dunedin's, where the wait rose to 42 weeks in September.

A month earlier, the Dunedin wait had been 33 weeks.

Waiting times for semi-urgent CT scans in Dunedin had increased to 20 weeks by the end of September, against a target time of six weeks, and routine referrals were taking 23 weeks, against a target of 12 weeks.

Ms Dillon said 222 patients had been referred to alternative facilities.

With further industrial action planned, it was anticipated that only inpatient and urgent outpatient CT referrals would be carried out.

The committee will also be told that radiographers' overtime related to callbacks was over budget last month by $8000 and the month's spending on outside radiology services was up $15,000.

The industrial action also affected the amount of ACC work carried out at Dunedin Hospital, contributing to revenue from the corporation being $42,000 less than expected for the month.

Despite the action by radiographers, the amount of elective surgery in both Otago and Southland is ahead of what was planned.

On Friday, the Association of Professional and Executive Employees (Apex) announced a nationwide 48-hour complete withdrawal of labour for November 9 and 10.

The union's announcement follows District Health Boards New Zealand's withdrawal of its latest offer earlier last week.

Union spokeswoman Robyn Slater said the action was also in response to boards offering new employees inferior terms and conditions of employment on individual employment agreements.

She said the union was being forced to take action it did not want to.

DHBNZ spokeswoman Karen Roach described the action as "a kick in the face for patients and co-workers", who had borne the brunt of the industrial action for three months.

The boards were willing to talk to the union if it had a proposal that demonstrated an understanding of the boards' ability to afford the settlement.


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