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Medical scientists call off strike to enter talks on pay at Labour Court

Cancellation of work stoppage means thousands of patients will be spared hospital disruption

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Medical scientist Kerrie Weldridge, on strike outside St James's Hospital in Dublin over long-standing pay and career development issues

Medical scientist Kerrie Weldridge, on strike outside St James's Hospital in Dublin over long-standing pay and career development issues

Medical scientists on strike outside St James's Hospital in Dublin over long-standing pay and career development issues. Photo: Mark Condren

Medical scientists on strike outside St James's Hospital in Dublin over long-standing pay and career development issues. Photo: Mark Condren

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Medical scientist Kerrie Weldridge, on strike outside St James's Hospital in Dublin over long-standing pay and career development issues

Tens of thousands of patients are being spared major disruption today as striking medical scientists enter exploratory pay talks, but some cancellations of inpatient and day case surgery cannot be avoided.

A work stoppage from 8am to 8pm by medical scientists, who are key to diagnosing patient test samples, led to mass cancellations across the service yesterday.

They were planning a similar strike today, but called it off after accepting an invitation to attend the Labour Court for exploratory talks on long-standing grievances over pay and other issues.

The HSE said yesterday that hospitals will endeavour to resume appointments and procedures as quickly as possible today.

“Inevitably, there will still be some cancellation of inpatient and day surgery and outpatient appointments across hospitals,” it said.

“Hospitals will contact patients directly to advise on any updates or changes to arrangements for tomorrow. Routine GP testing and testing services for patients already in hospital will resume on Wednesday.”

The relief for patients came as the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) said the Labour Court intervened in the dispute, inviting both parties to engage in a process to begin today.

The MLSA, HSE and Department of Health have accepted the invitation.

“As a result, the MLSA has this evening issued notice to all of its 2,100 members to suspend further industrial action planned for Wednesday and to resume work as normal across all hospital laboratories,” the association said.

MLSA general secretary Terry Casey said the union will enter the Labour Court process in good faith and with commitment to resolving the severe recruitment and retention issues in the laboratory sector.

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Earlier, 40 scientists chanted about wanting more staff at a protest outside St James’s Hospital.

Across the country, the scientists work in public voluntary hospitals, HSE hospitals, private hospitals and the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS).

Simon Hogan, who is a medical lab scientist in the IBTS at St James’s Hospital in Dublin, said they would not back down.

“The whole pay grade system is a mess anyway, but we are being continually ignored. We are not a militant group, this is the first time we have ever done this, we don’t strike,” he said.

“We know that us striking is more serious than other disciplines because there is a patient at the end of it and we get that, but no one is listening.

“It’s not even a question of talks breaking down. They don’t take us seriously, they think we will strike for a few days and then back off because we got little to no traction from last week’s one day, so this is why we are here.

“We want somebody to talk to us, we feel we are being ignored. There is a moral pressure on us, a bit like the nurses – the argument people will die can be made, but none of us want it to get to that.”

The MLSA said medical scientists want the same pay as clinical biochemists, who are being paid 8pc more to do a very similar job.

Mr Hogan said that in some cases, going from a biochemist to a medical scientist is considered a promotion, yet the pay actually decreases.

“Across the board, it is about 8pc discrepancy across all grades,” he said. “There are people here who switched jobs – they went from being a biochemist to a medical lab scientist and technically got a promotion but ended up getting less money.”

Eoin Kilkenny, a medical scientist at St James’s, said he and his colleagues were burnt out and their pay must be increased in a bid to fill the 20pc of posts that are vacant.

“People are leaving the profession or people studying in college are looking at other prospects,” he said.

 


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