Industrial action by medical laboratory scientists employed by the HSE is set to go ahead for two more days next week.
Around 14,000 hospital outpatient appointments were cancelled on Wednesday due to industrial action by medical laboratory staff who are central to analysing patient tests.
Members of the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) are taking the action in a long running dispute over pay and unfilled posts.
The medical scientists said they are taking the action “in frustration over long-standing pay and career development issues.”
The workplace of the majority of medical scientists is at laboratories in public hospitals.
The union representing Medical Scientists, the MLSA, said it has made every effort to avoid disruption to patients and fellow healthcare workers, but has been left with no alternative.
The action follows many rounds of unsuccessful talks with HSE, Department of Health, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Public Service Agreement Group.
MLSA general secretary Terry Casey said the group has tried to avoid disruption to patients but the organisation has been left with no option.
“We did engage with the HSE but there has been no progress in terms of the discussions to response the dispute unfortunately,” he told RTÉ. “We have had some informal discussions with the WRC and the HSE, who themselves are concerned with the escalation of the dispute into this week where there will be a stoppage for two days on Tuesday and Wednesday once again.”
If the dispute is not resolved after this week, the MLSA will go ahead with three more days of action the following week.
In a ballot of MLSA members last November 98pc voted in favour of taking the action.
MLSA chairperson Kevin O’Boyle said there is huge frustration and burn-out among medical scientists because of a severe recruitment and retention problem which have been ignored by the employer for many years and he set out the issues needing to be resolved.
“Up to 20pc of approved medical scientist posts are unfilled in hospitals,” he said.
Medical scientists carry out identical work to other colleagues in hospital laboratories, yet are paid on average 8pc less, he said.
And they have fewer career development opportunities and less support for training and education than comparable colleagues
The role for laboratory diagnostics is currently expanding with increasing responsibility and workloads.