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Maintenance on vital medical equipment could lapse as staff hours are cut

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

There are fears maintenance work on vital medical equipment used at some of Sydney’s busiest hospitals could lapse, with staff having their hours cut back.

There are fears maintenance work on vital medical equipment used at some of Sydney's busiest hospitals could lapse, with staff having their hours cut back.

The Clinical Engineering Department maintains, tests and monitors machines such as ventilators, defibrillators and heart rate monitors at Prince of Wales, Sydney Children's Hospital, the Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney Eye Hospital and the Eastern Heart Clinic.

Technical Officer at Prince of Wales Hospital and Health Services Union representative Paul Mason said "you can imagine the consequences" if the machines aren't working when they're needed.

Workers responsible for maintaining life-saving medical equipment at Sydney hospitals are facing cuts to ours and pay.

But NSW Health's South Eastern Sydney Local Health District has cut back on-call shifts and altered overtime rosters, claiming the hours are not needed.

The Health Services Union says the changes mean losing 20 hours of maintenance work a week, saving the State Government just under $100,000 a year.

In a letter dated May 1, the union's Secretary Gerard Hayes wrote to NSW Health arguing 'the current proposal... is the equivalent of removing one half of a full-time position in a department that is already struggling".

'Over the last 16 years, the Clinical Engineering Department has gone from having 12 staff maintaining under 3,000 pieces of equipment, to nine staff maintaining over 11,000 pieces of equipment,' Mr Hayes wrote.

'The members in this department are battling to keep on top of the existing work.'

But in response, The South-Eastern Sydney Local Health District says the changes 'do not increase the workload of the department'.

'Futher, these changes will be monitored closely and adjustments made as necessary with a full review of the department to follow,' it says.

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The Health Services Union says the workers will have to skip some tasks that are not related to equipment required during the coronavirus pandemic if the cut goes ahead, because they are already struggling to keep up with their workload.

'We're very concerned that we're getting behind on maintenance. things are years behind their due date - when they're due to be serviced. So we're getting really behind,' Mr Mason said.

Shadow Health Minister Ryan Park said 'now is not the time' to reduce maintenance of equipment.

'To have their hours cut, their jobs cut, in the middle of a pandemic, is absolutely absurd,' he said.  

Coogee MP Marjorie O'Neill said there's now a 'particular need' for working ventilators and skilled staff to maintain them.

'Doctors and staff are using lots more machines, than they ever were using, and there should be more staff to maintain them, not less,' she said.

Source: 9News

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