Workers' relief at screening decision

Breast-screening mammographers are shocked yet relieved by the surprise decision they will continue to be employed by the Southern District Health Board, union spokesman Rhys Walters says.

''They have been put through the wringer since September last year, only to end up back at square one - they will not be made redundant after all,'' Mr Walters said.

The move came yesterday, resolving a disagreement over redundancy payments, which had resulted in the mammographers declining jobs last week with new provider Pacific Radiology Group because the health board would not pay redundancies.

Yesterday, the health board told mammographers it would rescind notices advising they were surplus. Retained as health board employees, they would be managed day-to-day by PRG, which had agreed to the move.

Mr Walters, of the Association of Professionals and Executive Employees, told the Otago Daily Times the 15 mammographers had been on an ''emotional rollercoaster''.''

Working so closely with cancer patients takes an emotional toll, which never fades,'' he said.''

It certainly hasn't been easy for the mammographers working with the cancer patients, answering their questions about the future of the service, providing a top-notch professional service, and all the while keeping their own emotions in check during the turmoil.''

While it was a welcome development, ''the mammographers' level of trust and confidence in their employer is not at all in a healthy state'', Mr Walters said.

The disagreement had raised concern the switch-over from the health board to the private provider on August 4 could be disruptive for screening patients, who number about 18,000 in Otago and Southland.

The board had elected to exit the National Screening Unit contract and allow it to be picked up by the private sector.

It is also outsourcing the diagnostic breast-care service to PRG, which is staffed by the same mammographers.

Health board chief executive Carole Heatly said in a statement to the ODT the decision to employ the mammographers guaranteed the continuation of a safe, high-quality service. PRG chief executive Lance Lawler could not be contacted for comment.

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