That review came after a Monash Health business case in 2016, seen by The Age, found that the amount of work being completed in some areas of pathology over the previous five years had risen by “50 to 100 per cent in some areas”, while staffing levels remained stagnant.
If staffing was not increased at Clayton’s haematology unit, the review found, risks would include: “more chance of staff not coping with workload and following approved protocols which would impact on optimal patient care … poorer turnaround times, less effective staff training and workload stress may impact on quality of results and the likelihood of this occurring is possible to likely”.
One scientist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said management had taken advantage of the patholgists’ longtime willingness to do extra, unpaid hours for the wellbeing of patients for too long.
He said staff were taking so much leave due to stress that it compounded the size of the workload on those who remained.
“The workloads, particularly after-hours are excessive, relentless and difficult and are getting worse over time,” he said.
“If we don’t take a stand then it will be worse for the patients in the long run. I have seen staff in tears about having to work overnight and after hours.”
He said working conditions were cramped, equipment was in poor condition or too old and that staff morale was low, all of which compromised patient wellbeing.
Paul Elliott, the association’s secretary, said the withdawal of Monash Health’s offer was «appalling and outraged the workforce».
“If the budget of $1 billion can’t cope with appointing more scientists for $4 million, which the hospital agrees are desperately needed, they ought to come clean how bad a financial state they are in,» Mr Elliott said.
Mr Elliott said staff had been injured due to fatigue and that the work-to-rule conditions meant patients pathology tests could be delayed, unless required because of emergency.
A spokesman for Monash Health denied it ever «committed to an increase in staffing levels» in November 2018.
The association say the staff increase was offered by Monash Health at a face-to-face meeting and via email from Monash Health representatives which The Age has seen.
«[Monash Health’s regular staffing reviews] resulted in an increase in pathology staffing levels, additional automation, and enhanced technological support for the service over the last five years,» the spokesman wrote.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the dispute was “a matter for Monash Health”.
“I have asked the department to work with Monash Health on any necessary measures to ensure safety and quality of patient care isn’t compromised,” Ms Mikakos said.
Anthony is a reporter at The Age