Union: privatisation on way to radiology

CLAIMS: Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association assistant secretary Andrew Hewat.

By Luke Voogt

Victorian radiology services could be privatised under a State Government plan, a Geelong union official alleged this week.

Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association assistant secretary Andrew Hewat accused State Government of hiring a US consultancy company to “rationalise or even potentially contract out” public radiology.

“A very reliable source” within the public health system alerted the union that State Government had recruited Boston Consulting Group for the “very serious” project, Mr Hewat said.

He declined to reveal the source due to possible ramifications to their position.

“We don’t have any details yet about how deep or wide these plans run, but it could affect general allied health, therapy (and) outpatient services,” he said.

Mr Hewat believed State Government was “trying to keep this quiet until after the Federal Election” to avoid backlash against federal Labor MPs.

The accusation follows a long-running battle between Mr Hewat and former Barwon Health chief executive officer (CEO) Ruth Salom about alleged privatisation plans.

Mr Hewat last year accused Prof Salom of plans to cut or privatise imaging services, which she in turn described as “misleading” allegations.

He was now “suspicious” the alleged plans could have been a “pilot project” for the rest of Victoria.

“There are strong rumours that (State Government) are looking at options for restructuring allied health – that is privatising and cutting back on crucial senior positions,” he said.

A potential privatisation would be “the greatest attack on public health services since Jeff Kennett in the 1990s”, he added.

State Government confirmed it had engaged Boston Consulting Group but Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the state’s radiology services would remain publicly owned.

“There are no plans to reduce patient services, and unions and health services would be consulted about any proposed changes,” she said.

“We constantly look for new ways of working to ensure better and more effective services are delivered to Victorians.

“We are always looking at opportunities for improvement across the health system and the department occasionally seeks advice from firms with commercial and other expertise.”

The Department of Health and Human Services had engaged Boston Consulting Group to assist with service improvements, government sources said.

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