By Luke Voogt
Accusations of cuts to radiology services at Geelong have received support from a local union official, who put forth the claims at a forum last month.
Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association (VAHPA) assistant secretary Andrew Hewat backed the accusations by local socialist candidates in the Indy last week.
“There’s a whole raft of (services) that were specifically targeted because they’re expensive examinations and highly specialised,” he said.
“What makes it so much worse is that they’re the sort of things that only Barwon Health would do locally.
“People who would have access to it… would now have to go to Melbourne for that sort of service.”
Mr Hewat works as a sonographer in Barwon Health’s radiology department and has worked on-and-off with the health provider for decades.
“I take this almost personally because the people that they’re attacking are my colleagues that I’ve worked with for 37 years.”
He was “happy to stick (his) neck out” on behalf of University Hospital Geelong employees as VAHPA assistant secretary, he said.
“It would be a very ugly look for (Barwon Health) if they came after me,” he said.
Mr Hewat accused Barwon Health CEO Ruth Salom of plans to cut barium studies and other radiology examinations.
“The conversation has shifted from being about delivering quality service to how much can we save, or worse, how much money can we make,” he said.
Barwon Health also reneged on an agreement with the unions to hire new staff for a $5 million refurbishment of its CT suite and $2 million CT scanner, Mr Hewat said.
According to Mr Hewat, Ms Salom intervened by cancelling staff recruitment and ordering existing staff to run the new scanner “or she would contract the running of the new CT scanner out.”
“After push-back from VAHPA the CEO has now conceded to the provision of two radiographers on temporary contracts for 12 months and in that time they must increase the number of private patients by at least 20 per day to justify their wages.”
The Indy has seen internal Barwon Health documentation that supports all of Mr Hewat’s assertions.
Mr Hewat said he was aware of conversations across disciplines at Geelong’s hospital about cost-cutting and profitability.
“I also need to emphasise that we are not blaming the State Government but the Barwon Health executive,” he said.
Barwon Health acting chief executive officer Cobus Lotheringen last week rejected the claims.
“Barwon Medical Imaging, which performs all radiology operations at University Hospital Geelong, has not ceased any services and there are no plans to do so,” he said.
“We are proud to offer cutting-edge radiology services, which allow patients to undergo cancer treatment close to home without the mental and physical toll of travelling to Melbourne.
“Barwon Health constantly reviews the services offered as a public hospital with a set budget, in order to provide the best possible care needed in the community.”