B.C. healthcare professionals' job action disrupts medical services

Vancouver Sun

The second stage of strike action by members of the Health Sciences Association hits B.C. hospitals today.
Workers who deliver diagnostic imaging services like X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds will scale back to essential services as part of an effort to pressure the government to come up with a better contract offer.
The union's job action began yesterday with hospital pharmacists offering only essential services, and it continues Sunday when hospital lab services will also be reduced to essential services.
The association represents about 17,000 health science professionals in B.C.
"Tomorrow's job action will have significant impact for our patients, as many non-urgent medical imaging procedures will have to be rescheduled," said Vancouver Coastal Health spokesman Gavin Wilson on Thursday.
These procedures include non-emergency X-rays, mammograms, sonograms, MRIs, CT scans and other diagnostic imaging procedures that will need rescheduling.
More than 500 medical imaging procedures slated across Vancouver Island today have been cancelled as X-ray and CT scan specialists in B.C. take rotating strike action to press for a new contract.
The cancellations, classed as non-urgent, include 188 procedures scheduled for Victoria General and Royal Jubilee hospitals; keeping cancer and children's cases on the schedule is a priority, said VIHA spokeswoman Suzanne Germain. "Overall, patients have been very understanding," she said.
"Essentially, we're looking for the same deal that everybody else in the public sector has been getting, like the provincial government employees," responded Justin Schmid, a national representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents about 500 B.C. health professionals.
CUPE is one of five unions comprising the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA), currently undergoing the job action.
Schmid said health professionals are seeking a four-per cent wage increase over two years with no concessions, and used health inspectors as an example why.
"There's a huge wage disparity between public health inspectors in B.C. versus Alberta and other parts of the country. It poses a big problem for keeping them here. A lot of them look at those higher wages and want to move away to those higher paying jobs elsewhere, where the job is more properly recognized," Schmid said.
The HSPBA has been in mediated negotiations with the Health Employers Association of B.C. (HEABC) since Tuesday to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.
Michael Marchbank, President and CEO of the HEABC - which represents more than 260 publicly funded health care employers in the province - said the job action went against negotiating conventions.
"The established practice in labour relations is for bargaining associations to hold off on job action during mediation," Marchbank said in a statement. "Employers do not understand why the (HSPBA) would be proceeding with job action when there is an opportunity for dialogue with a recognized and respected mediator.
"We're disappointed that the HSPDA went ahead with job action," he said later in an interview. "Obviously patients will be inconvenienced."
Essential services like emergency care continue to run during job actions.
The HEABC has already reached three of five collective agreements in the health sector with bargaining associations representing nurses, resident physicians and other health services employees.
with files from the Victoria Times Colonist
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun