August 31, 2001

80 Ultrasound Tests Per Day to be Cancelled at Health Sciences Centre

Non-unionized Ultrasound Employees at HSC threaten work stoppage

Demanding a 35% wage increase retro-active to April 1, 2000, non-union Ultrasound Technologists (Sonographers) and Echocardiography Technologists at Health Sciences Centre have advised their employer that they will withdraw services at 0700 hours on Wednesday, September 5th. Beginning today, patients who were scheduled for ultrasounds at HSC from Wednesday, September 5 to Friday, September 7 are being notified that their tests will be cancelled. The schedule for the following week is pending.

"While we recognize that there are some issues that are specific to the ultrasound department at Health Sciences Centre, we simply don't have the capacity to meet this wage demand," says Real Cloutier, Vice-President and Chief Allied Health Officer. "The implications of such a decision would require a multi-million dollar response."

Ultrasound and echocardiography technologists earn at the top of their payscale $23.923 per hour. They are receiving an increase, identical to the unionized group that will total seven per cent by next April, making their new rate $25.597. With the increases being implemented immediately, ultrasound and echocardiography technologists will earn approximately two per cent more than bedside nurses, and will be well-placed amongst other technical healthcare occupations.

The adjusted rate the sonographers will be provided will place their salaries at 4th in the country in terms of maximum annual salary and 6th in the country in terms of maximum hourly rate.

"We met with the sonographers last night to clarify the full value of the upcoming adjustments and to open discussion on addressing some of their long-standing work life issues," adds Cloutier.

Contingency planning continues, and efforts will be made to accommodate patients who are affected by this situation as soon as possible. Ultrasound wait lists now average 16 weeks across Winnipeg. All Winnipeg hospital sites are currently providing the full volume of service available within current staffing. It is expected that services at all other sites will continue undisrupted.

"We are doing what we can to recognize the needs of this group, but accommodating their demands would impact almost instantly across the health system," adds Cloutier. "Every staff group, union or non-union would use this wage scale as the measure against which all others should compare. We are unable to match the Province of Alberta's wage rates. We regret the impact this has on patients and will work toward resolution to the best of our ability."

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