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‘We are not a militant group, it’s the first time we have gone on strike’ - medical scientists on why they have downed tools

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Simon Hogan, medical scientist, and Moira Keogh, chief medical scientist, on strike outside St James' Hospital in Dublin over long-standing pay and career development issues. Pic: Mark Condren

Simon Hogan, medical scientist, and Moira Keogh, chief medical scientist, on strike outside St James' Hospital in Dublin over long-standing pay and career development issues. Pic: Mark Condren

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

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

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Simon Hogan, medical scientist, and Moira Keogh, chief medical scientist, on strike outside St James' Hospital in Dublin over long-standing pay and career development issues. Pic: Mark Condren

Over 40 medical lab scientists chanted about wanting more staff at a strike outside St James’ Hospital today.

The scientists are part of a nationwide strike by the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) over a long-running dispute over pay, career progression and unfilled posts.

The two-day strike began today and three more days are organised for next week if the issue isn't resolved.

The strikers across the country 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 located in St James’ Hospital, said they wouldn’t 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 told Independent.ie.

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

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

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

"Across the board, it is about 8pc [discrepancy] across all grades,” Mr Hogan 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.”

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

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

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

Eoin Kilkenny, who is also a medical scientist in St James’, said he and his colleagues are burnt out and that pay needs to be increased to encourage the 20pc vacant posts to be filled.

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

"Some of these staff we are training up as part of their course for a year and then 20pc of them are going off, we are training people and they are not staying.”

The scientist added: “Yeah [we are burnt out] when someone leaves and you are trying to get someone in it can be tough to get someone trained up, this has been going on for months and months.

"Particularly after Covid, it seems to be endless. We enjoy the work, we enjoy working for patients but there’s a limit to what you can take.”

The HSE said there will be significant disruption and delays in hospitals until 8pm today due to the strikes.

It is estimated that around 2,800 planned procedures will have been cancelled today around the country and around 14,000 outpatient appointments will have been affected.

Mr Hogan said in the IBTS intensive care units and emergency situations are still being looked after.

"Ourselves in the IBTS we have managed a situation where all donations, for now, are being tested, but how far do we need to escalate this?” he said.

“All things like bone marrow samples are being cancelled for today but they are not urgent. If we don’t get anywhere we are going to have to escalate this.”


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