Kelly in the Media

South Australia slashes pathology, medical science jobs

Verity Edwards – The Australian

Medical unions say timely patient treatments and diagnoses could be at risk after the South Australian government yesterday cut 25 per cent of its pathology workforce, equivalent to 196.6 full time equivalent jobs.

Professionals Australia director Sarah Andrews said the roles to go included medical scientists and technical officers, who pathologists relied on to interpret test results.

Staff will begin industrial action in bureaucratic and training areas from tomorrow, but Ms Andrews said it would not affect patient care or test results.

“This is devastating news for medical scientists and technical officers facing job losses but it’s also incredibly bad news for the South Australian community,” Ms Andrews said.

“We know that in pathology if this 25 per cent reduction of jobs occurs, then people will be waiting longer for diagnoses and that also means waiting longer for treatment. When people wait longer for treatment they’re sicker for longer, and this actually will cost the health system more in the long run.”

She said “every single cancer” was diagnosed through pathology with people sometimes beginning treatment that day. Any delay would be “devastating for South Australian families”.

The efficiencies were first identified in a 2015 review of the service’s performance, undertaken by Ernst and Young, which found pathology costs in South Australia were 50 per cent higher than the industry-accepted benchmark. The review recommended 332 jobs should be cut to save $42 million annually.

Ms Andrews said the inefficiencies identified in the report were untrue and the state’s service was the most efficient in the nation.

The report also recommended privatising regional pathology services, which the state government did not implement. No regional staff will go in the job cuts.

South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association industrial officer Bernadette Mulholland said 100 medical officer positions would also be under review in the coming months.

“To remove 25 per cent of a workforce will impact on the efficiencies and the flow of patient care through the hospital system,” Ms Mulholland said.

Dignity Party MP Kelly Vincent said the government was touting the benefits of its Transforming Health plan, but jobs were being lost.

“We know that up to 70 per cent of all diagnoses rely on pathologists to provide accurate information for an accurate diagnoses and accurate treatment,” Ms Vincent said. “Without that I’m very concern that we’ll see less accurate diagnoses, less accurate treatment, therefore people suffering longer and potentially even lives at risk.”

SA Pathology chief Glenn Edwards said the cuts would not compromise patient care or cause delays, with reviews ongoing.

He said computer and technical systems were transforming pathology services through consistency and standardisation, indicating fewer staff were needed