PATIENTS and visitors at Echuca Regional Health could be placed at greater risk, with Health Workers Union claiming the hospital plans to slash its security staff by at least 50 per cent.
According to the union, hospital management is currently undertaking a staffing review which would see a number of security officers reclassified to orderly/cleaner/porter.
Resulting in a $200 to $300 wage drop.
HWU lead regional organiser Steve Mitchell said the union was shocked to hear of the hospital’s “sneaky plan” to cut staff.
“The union has been part of a statewide review into security in public hospitals, looking into changing the classification of some security workers,” he said.
“We have been in negotiation with ERH about the reclassification of patient services assistants to cleaners and orderlies and that’s been going quite well, they’ve been quite open with that.
“But part of that negotiation was that the hospital’s security review be put on hold until the state security review was finalised.
“But they’ve turned around and done it anyway.”
ERH chief executive Michael Delahunty said he wanted to defer his comments on the claim until he had spoken with the union.
He would neither confirm nor deny the proposed changes had been made in Echuca.
The union said ERH had advised them the roles of their security staff were mostly of a cleaning and portering role.
And reducing staff to that classification would be more in line with the day-to-day function of the facility.
“But those workers are still expected to step up to a security role if they’re needed, because they have security licences,” Mr Mitchell said.
“Otherwise, they’re just expected – and paid – to be cleaners.”
With the union reporting incidents at ERH featuring golf clubs, broken scissors and kitchen knives, HWU secretary Diana Asmar said strong security at the hospital was crucial.
“We need trained, qualified and professional security in our hospitals,” she said.
“Any sneaky plan to downgrade our security personnel at Echuca hospital will invariably put the local community at risk.
“Ice has become a real problem in regional communities. Our members are experiencing increased incidents of violent physical and verbal attacks by drug addicts. It is nuts to downgrade our security.
“Hospital management is trying to cut costs by changing the current arrangements. But they are putting lives at risk.
“The Victorian Government must pull the Echuca Regional Health’s chief executive and the board into line.
“We want assurances from Health Minister Jill Hennessy the current review will not result in downgrading of security staff.”