Staff shortage causing queues

A CHRONIC shortage of trained staff is behind the growing queue of patients waiting for ultrasound scans in Lismore.

Dr Warwick Herbert, one of a dozen partners at North Coast Radiology in St Vincent's Hospital, said the situation in Lismore was being repeated all over the country, as specialists struggled to find staff to keep up with a growing demand for ultrasound monitoring.

At North Coast Radiology the problem has been compounded with the loss of four technicians, one quarter of the qualified staff, leaving the practice in the past three months.

Dr Herbert said two moved interstate and another two were off on workers' compensation.

He said repetitive strain injuries were a factor in working with an ultra-sound scanner, as technicians tended to use one arm to hold ultra-sound monitoring equipment when scanning patients.

For the same reason, the remaining technical staff was not physically able to work overtime in order to reduce the backlog of people waiting for ultrasound tests.

Dr Herbert said working with an ultrasound machine was not a job for school leavers, which makes hiring new staff difficult.

Typically technicians first work towards becoming a radiographer and then complete extensive training to learn how to operate an ultrasound scanner.

In-house training at North Coast Radiology typically takes three years, and some staff who begin that training drop out after a few months.

“It's a slow process,” Dr Herbert said.

North Coast Radiology is currently advertising for technicians in technical magazines, and by word-of-mouth. Dr Herbert said the practice was also considering hiring foreign technicians.

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