Medical Science Matters, the campaign by South Australian Professional Scientist Australia members, will soon be entering a new phase.
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Over the last three months medical scientist members and Professional Scientists Australia officials have held a number of meetings with representatives from Health and the Office for the Public Sector, calling for improvements to career structures and conditions for medical scientists.
Discussions on the issues that medical scientists are facing have, to this point, been encouraging and are ongoing. This is in large part due to the activity members have been undertaking at worksites across Health, and the increased support behind our campaign for change.
We know that while a patient may rarely see a medical scientist, they are involved in almost all the care our health system provides. medical scientists inform other healthcare professionals how to provide the right care in the right situation, and pose questions and conduct research to find treatments to the communities health issues.
We also know that well resourced medical science saves money; no repeat tests, repeat visits to the doctor, or lengthy stays in hospital waiting for treatment or diagnosis. It also enables the prevention or early diagnosis of serious and chronic diseases. This saves patients, their families, communities and governments money. Most importantly; it saves lives.
But all is not well in medical science. As a far smaller group than doctors or nurses, medical scientists get overlooked. Funding for medical science is being cut, and scientists positions are being lost, while demand for their work is increasing. With fewer medical scientists and greater workloads, it could take far longer to receive treatment when a patient goes to the doctor, hospital or emergency room.
Members have told us clearly that without improved investment in medical science, South Australia is on a path leading towards higher health costs and poor patient outcomes, and this is the message we need to get across to senior decision makers. But we can’t do that alone.
Medical Physicists: An Example to Follow
Public Sector Medical Physicists (MP’s) have been joining together and building power in their workplace since 2009 to support their claim for their own classification structure. MP’s believe their current classification situation lacks recognition of their unique skills, and the role they play in Health.
During the last few years MP’s across the country have successfully fought for their own structures that appropriately recognise the expertise of MP’s. This has resulted in South Australia being left behind as one of the lowest paid states, encouraging MP’s to move interstate to gain the recognition they deserve. One of SA’s Public Hospitals even had an advertised vacancy for a Physicists position that was unable to be filled for in excess of 3 years.
In recent years the majority of medical physicists in SA Health have joined Professional Scientists Australia and embarked on a campaign to raise community awareness of the importance of their role, which included media coverage. When negotiations with State Government representatives failed to see any improvements to the MP’s conditions they were backed up through community support and took actions in their workplace.
In order to resolve the dispute Government agreed to a review of the classification structure. It was at this point, after joining together in their workforces, building evidence, generating community support and an industrial show of strength, that medical physicists finally won the right to discuss the options for their own classification structure and what that may look like.
For the last two years Professionals Australia members worked together and conducted the review with SA Health, working to make recommendations about new role definitions, work level definitions, and the relative salary weightings between the new classification levels. These agreed recommendations then formed part of the claim being considered by the State Government during the current round of enterprise bargaining negotiations.
The Next Steps for Medical Scientists:
Our biggest ally in our work toward respect, reward and recognition is the very community whose healthcare we enable.
By acting together through Professional Scientists Australia, medical physicists convinced the Government that things needed to change. Just like with medical physicists, the community relies on medical scientists to enable an efficient, functioning healthcare system.
The key message for medical scientists to take away is clear: when science professionals join together and act collectively, with the support of the community, we have the power to make big changes and influence political decision makers.
By coming together and sharing our stories with the community, medical scientists will create a strong professional voice, with a strong call for change. Now is the time for medical scientists to join Professional Scientists Australia.
Join the campaign today: http://www.professionalsaustralia.org.au/join-now/