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Hospitals braced for major disruption as lab scientists strike

Med lab scientists to go on 12-hour strike on Wednesday, May 18, scaling up to two days’ industrial action next week

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Up to 20pc of medical scientist posts are unfilled in hospitals across the country, according to the representative body. Photo: Stock image

Up to 20pc of medical scientist posts are unfilled in hospitals across the country, according to the representative body. Photo: Stock image

Up to 20pc of medical scientist posts are unfilled in hospitals across the country, according to the representative body. Photo: Stock image

Patients attending hospitals, GPs and emergency departments this Wednesday have been warned to expect serious disruption as medical laboratory scientists go on a 12-hour strike.

The workers, who are essential to analysing test samples, will withdraw their services in a dispute over pay and unfilled posts. Emergency department consultants said strike notice has been served on the HSE.

They will do the same on two and three successive days in the following two weeks.

The consultants in the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine said that “given the need that patients attending emergency departments have for a variety of laboratory tests” and “notwithstanding any contingency arrangements that may be put in place” there will inevitably be significant disruption to the normal functioning of all emergency departments on Wednesday.

They said: “It is important, therefore, that neither patients nor GPs assume emergency departments are exempt from the action.

“Medical laboratory scientists perform a crucial role in patient care and in the workings of emergency departments and acute hospitals.

“The absence of this expertise and the services these professionals provide will inevitably have a very negative impact on patient care.

“The association’s understanding is that the issues at the heart of this dispute are long-standing and have remained unaddressed for an extended period.

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“It therefore calls on all parties to resolve this impasse as a matter of urgency, if necessary using the normal industrial relations machinery of the state to assist.”

Medical laboratory scientists are taking action “in frustration over long-standing pay and career development issues that are affecting recruitment and retention in the sector”.

It follows an unsuccessful round of talks after the Public Service Agreement Group (PSAG) referred the parties to re-engage.

The Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) had earlier served notice for industrial action on March 30.

However, this was suspended after being invited into new talks under the dispute resolution mechanism of the Building Momentum Public Service Pay Agreement.

MLSA chairperson Kevin O’Boyle said medical scientists are highly frustrated and want the issues properly resolved by the HSE, Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER).

“The latest failure by the HSE and Department of Health to put forward any proposal has added insult to injury,” he said.

“The MLSA withdrew notice for strike action on March 30 in good faith, yet the employer side has offered nothing to address our issues, causing further anger and frustration among our membership.

“We regret the difficulties it will cause to an already over-burdened health service and to patients awaiting treatment, but there is huge frustration and burnout among our members because the severe recruitment and retention problems in the sector have been ignored for years.

“Up to 20pc of approved medical scientist posts are unfilled in hospitals across the country. We have tried to avoid this action but have been left with no alternative.”

The MLSA notified employers that strike action will take place between 8am and 8pm on Wednesday, May 18. If no progress is made, a further two days of action are planned for May 24 and 25.


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