MidCentral Health denies strikes will delay cancer treatment

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A new Varian TrueBeam linear accelerator is in place at Palmerston North Hospital pending final adjustments.

Warwick Smith / Stuff

A new Varian TrueBeam linear accelerator is in place at Palmerston North Hospital pending final adjustments.

Cancer patients will receive their treatment on time at Palmerston North Hospital despite a three-day strike by senior executives.

Medical physicists who are members of the Apex union plan to strike for 24 hours on Friday, as well as Monday and Tuesday next week, then ban overtime outside of regular working hours for two weeks.

They are the ones who take care of the linear accelerators used for radiotherapy of cancer patients, and they plan and schedule how each patient’s treatment is administered.

Union advocacy officer David Munro said wage negotiations were broken down.

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Medical physicists had been denied a pay rise, which was in effect a pay cut, he said.

There are eight medical physicists at Palmerston North Hospital, where the regional cancer treatment service is based.

Sarah Fenwick, director of cancer screening, treatment and support operations, said Friday’s strike would not affect services.

“Patients with appointments should always attend their scheduled appointments,” she said.

Munro said medical physicists are a small but highly skilled workforce with eight to 12 years of training behind them.

They were particularly vulnerable to being drawn to other countries, particularly Australia, where a newly qualified physicist could earn the same salary as a chief physicist in New Zealand.

He said treatments for New Zealanders with cancer would be delayed due to the strikes.

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