Australia : Health professionals walk out of Victorian hospitals in protest
About 600 allied health professionals will walk out of some of Victoria's busiest hospitals from 11am on Thursday morning, striking over a "Jurassic" career structure they say is leaving patients in the
hands of underqualified professionals.
Waiting lists in 33 Victorian hospitals are expected to temporarily blow out on Thursday, as physiotherapists, radiographers, speech pathologists, podiatrists and other allied health professionals strike in Melbourne's CBD from 2pm.
The public health workers will gather at the Athenaeum Theatre for a stop-work meeting at 2pm, followed by a march down Collins Street and concluding with a "dino rally" that will feature inflatable dinosaurs - a nod to what they say is an antiquated career structure - at Treasury Place.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the protest had been flagged as "peaceful" and the union representing allied health workers, the Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association, had informed police they would be walking down the footpath on Collins Street.
But the union said, with 600 people expected, the protest may cause delays to traffic in the area.
VAHPA secretary Craig McGregor said workers from hospitals as far away as Wodonga, and inner-city hospitals including The Alfred, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Austin Health, would be significantly affected by the industrial action.
He said emergency patients, cancer patients and children would be still be looked after but that those with less acute problems may face longer waiting times.
The Age understands the union and government representatives were in meetings until late last night and reached some agreement on wages, but not on the union's desire for the government to recognise "advanced practice" work that some health professionals are doing.
The union has accused Victorian hospital managers of compromising patient care by using about 40 junior allied health professionals to do the work of senior doctors including orthopaedic surgeons, neurosurgeons and radiologists, as a means to cut patient waiting lists.
"This is what modern governments call productivity," said union secretary Craig McGregor.
Mr McGregor said some junior allied health professionals were performing invasive and high-risk procedures (such as the insertion of catheters into patients' hearts), post-operative orthopaedic assessments and developmental paediatric evaluations.
He said this was unacceptable and at odds with the recommendations of the relevant professional associations and the Department of Health and Human Services framework.
"The members have had enough; we served our log of claims on the hospitals and the Andrews government in September last year and still have no resolution," said Mr McGregor.
He said if allied health professionals were doing this work, they should be paid more than the rates of pay they are getting at the moment.
A spokeswoman for Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy would not comment on how much disruption the industrial action could cause for hospitals and patients today, but said negotiations with the union were scheduled to resume this morning.
"The Andrews Labor Government values the work of our allied health professionals. We have been, and will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach a fair and reasonable agreement," she said.
On Thursday afternoon, the two parties reached an agreement, however the details were unclear.
Ms Hennessy's spokeswoman said: "Health service representatives have reached in-principle agreement with the allied health union for a new enterprise agreement to cover allied health professionals working in Victorian public hospitals."
"The in-principle agreement will be submitted to Government for approval in coming weeks."