SOUTH-WEST MP Denis Napthine has described a medical union as a disgrace, accusing it of using cancer sufferers as pawns in a bid for more pay.
The Medical Scientists Association of Victoria says a severe shortage of medical physicists in Victoria means Warrnambool is unlikely to ever have a functioning radiation oncology service.
The association secretary Rosemary Kelly said Victorian cancer sufferers were missing out on best-practice radiation treatments and the problem was worse in regional Victoria, where waiting lists doubled those in the city.
Dr Kelly said radiation therapy could not be provided without qualified and appropriately paid staff and there was a shortage of 20 medical physicists in Victoria.
She said medical physicists in Victoria earn between $30,000 and $60,000 a year less than their counterparts in New South Wales and the state government was only offering a wage rise of 2.5 per cent.
She said the waiting list for patients who had to travel to Ballarat for radiotherapy was 16 weeks, and nine weeks for Geelong.
“The promised new cancer centre at Warrnambool will be just pie in the sky unless the state government does something to address the shortage of medical physicists now,” Dr Kelly said yesterday.
But Dr Napthine said there was nothing to substantiate the union’s claims.
“Unfortunately all they will do is frighten vulnerable people fighting cancer,” he said.
“It is a disgusting and cheap tactic.”
Dr Napthine said the state government knew there was a need for highly specialised medical physicists but there was also new technology which meant they could work from outside of Warrnambool or on a fly-in, fly-out system.
“That is exactly why we are proposing the new cancer centre be directly linked to Geelong,” he said.
“I think it’s a disgrace to try and scare people fighting cancer.
“Yes, they have a right to try an increase their pay, but they shouldn’t use cancer sufferers as pawns in their game.”
South West Healthcare chief executive John Krygger said the hospital strongly supported any attempt to improve the training of this specialised workforce but as they didn’t employ any of these scientists they were not involved in the current industrial dispute.