For the past six or so years the MSAV has worked hard to respond to our members’ calls for assistance with issues such as escalating workloads, growing work intensity, leave backfill, staffing levels and worst of all, injuries arising from these.
One initiative of the MSAV’s involves an independent and scientific investigation of rostering and staffing in public pathology services. RMIT University was asked to undertake a study of rostering practices in four public sector pathology services (Melbourne Health, Alfred Health, Monash Health and the RCH) to examine the impact of current rostering practices on fatigue and absenteeism. RMIT investigators, headed by Professor Timothy Bartram, conducted the study in the second half of 2018 by analysing rosters, interviewing pathology services senior managers and conducting focus groups of scientists.
The RMIT University issued its final report in late December 2018.
Of most importance, the RMIT report recommends that each of the pathology services involved immediately employ an additional 20.0 EFT scientists across the four departments studied (Haematology, Biochemistry, Microbiology and Anatomical Pathology) to “address work intensification and meet the requirements of the EA”.
You will see that the report is comprehensive and thorough. Its findings and recommendations are truly remarkable, in that the report’s principal conclusion is that staffing levels in the four pathology services studied are chronically low and identified the following major issues directly arising:
- the Occupational Health and Safety of scientists is being compromised, and to the extent that there is now an ongoing risk of injury; and
- patient safety is potentially being put at risk; and
- all pathology services studied are unable to comply with Enterprise Agreement provisions relating to rostering requirements, leave relief and workload.
The RMIT report is an objective and scientific investigation of the factors underpinning the MSAV’s long-held concerns about workload, and frankly reveals a crisis of employee welfare and patient safety in in pathology services and the need for an urgent response. Not least of the MSAV’s concerns is the finding that each of the health services is currently unable to comply with Enterprise Agreement terms relating to rostering and leave backfill – let’s not forget the Fair Work Act makes it a civil offence of any employer that contravenes a term of an EA – hence the recent (and apt) term of ‘wage theft’ we hear and read about. These contraventions of our EA are knowingly committed on a daily basis in our pathology services.
Earlier this week the Union wrote to the CEOs of the four health services involved to provide a copy of the report, emphasise the seriousness of the findings and demand their urgent responses. Of course the first and most critical response needed is to hire the additional scientists the report calls for.
It is important that MSAV members in the four services review the report and provide feedback, as quickly as you can to firstname.lastname@example.org
We want to reassure members who do not work in pathology services that are not part of the RMIT report that we know that the circumstances in your pathology service are likely to be as desperate as those described in this report. We need your feedback in relation to the report and your advice about how workloads, rosters, leave relief etc in your lab reflect those described in the report. We are very keen to hear from you to start the work about addressing these issues.