Date: 15 July 2008
More Staff, Better Coverage In Waikato
Successful recruitment drives by Waikato District Health Board has seen the board gain and retain almost a full complement of medical radiation technologists for its breast screening programme.
This comes five months after the board revealed it struggled to keep up with breast screening demand because of a national shortage of medical radiation technologists.
Staff numbers have improved in recent months with five full-time equivalents working out in the field, and another in the recruitment process, leaving just one mammography vacancy for Waikato.
The board provides breast screening every two years to women aged 45-69 as part of Breast Screen Aotearoa, the free national breast screening programme.
Despite recent staff shortages, screening numbers are up on the 2006/07 year for the Midland region, with 24,746 women screened as at June 30.
Waikato DHB screening manager Clare Coles said a number of initiatives were in place to manage the staffing situation.
While there has been some success in recruitment, Mrs Coles said the drive for both recruitment and retention was ongoing.
"It takes about six months to fully orientate a medical radiation technologist into mammography on a mobile unit and three months into the Breast Care Centre, so there is a time delay between recruitment and production," she said.
New sub-contract arrangements in the past few months have further increased capacity for Waikato.
"A working party has assisted with the co-ordination of recruitment and retention of medical radiation technologists within our DHB region," said Mrs Coles.
"And a number of incentives are being offered to prospective technologists, including relocation packages and a scholarship proposal to attract student technologists into mammography once they are qualified."
The workforce shortage was not solely a local issue, but a national and international one as well, she said.
"We are working hard to counteract that, and have a number of initiatives in place to improve the situation for Waikato women."
Waikato DHB urges eligible women to enrol in the programme but the priority at this time would be to screen women aged between 50 and 69 who had already had screening, she said.
Mrs Coles said it was important that women who feel or notice anything unusual about their breasts, at any time, contact their GP immediately rather than wait for the mobile unit to return to their town in the routine 20-24 months.
Women who are new to the programme are being sent letters to advise them of a delay when they enrol with the programme.