Hundreds of patients face having their medical scans cancelled as part of industrial action by staff at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital's radiology department.
Health Services Union members voted late yesterday to cancel all outpatient CT scans from Tuesday to protest against what they claim are unsafe workloads that could put patients at risk.
CT or computed tomography scans use X-rays and digital computer technology to give detailed images of the body and are often used to diagnose conditions such as cancer.
WA union secretary Dan Hill said the action was likely to affect hundreds of patients and came after months of talks with hospital management about understaffing concerns, during which time the union was told no new staff would be employed.
Mr Hill believed the department needed two extra workers to take pressure off existing staff.
"Members are being forced to regularly work 16-hour shifts on a 24/7 roster and they are very concerned that this will compromise patient safety," he said.
"Many members in the department work with radiation and are concerned that working while they're fatigued will lead to a clinical incident which could have dire consequences.
"Our members do not want to take industrial action but they feel like they have to because their concerns are not being taken seriously."
Mr Hill said hospital workers also had serious concerns about their own wellbeing, especially the dangers of driving home tired after long shifts.
Though cancelling services would inconvenience people, staff were taking the action to ensure patient safety, he said.
Mr Hill said patients who had appointments next week would be contacted, and the industrial action would continue until the situation was addressed.
Three months ago, Sir Charles Gairdner and Osborne Park hospitals said they were shedding about 250 full-time jobs because staffing levels were unsustainable. Among job losses were 67 in allied health areas, including radiology.
A SCGH spokeswoman said last night the hospital was only notified of the planned industrial action after office hours yesterday.
"We will determine what the potential impact will be and what measures will be implemented to minimise the impact on patients," she said.