Hospital services

Hospital wards could be hit as lab scientists step up with 48-hour strike

Hospital services could be hit when laboratory scientists step up industrial action with a 48-hour strike tomorrow “in frustration” over a pay dispute.

The Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists said in a statement today that hospital and GP services would be affected when members withdraw laboratory services from 8am to 8pm.

Appointments and procedures can be canceled when medical scientists refuse to perform diagnostic tests on patient samples.

Industrial action could also cause delays to emergency services.

Medical scientists work in voluntary public hospitals, HSE hospitals, private hospitals and the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

Tomorrow’s two-day strike will follow a one-day stoppage last week.

Further strikes are scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday next week.

The MLSA said it had done everything possible to avoid “regrettable” disruption to patients and other healthcare workers, but had no other alternative.

He said the industrial action is being taken amid a dispute over vacancies, pay equity and career path issues.

The union claimed the HSE or the Department of Health had made no moves for talks since last week’s shutdown ‘despite comments from HSE representatives suggesting talks were ongoing’.

He said most of his 2,100 members will be on picket lines at all voluntary and HSE public hospitals. Members working in the Irish Blood Transfusion Service will join the picket lines for the first time.

MLSA members voted 98% in favor of industrial action last November.

Union chairman Kevin O’Boyle said the HSE and Department of Health were unaware of the serious problems and burnout in the sector.

He said medical scientists do the same work as clinical biochemists in hospital labs, but are paid an average of 8% less.

Mr O’Boyle said medical laboratory assistants who report to medical scientists start with a higher salary.

He said there was a recruitment and retention crisis and 20% of hospital positions were unfilled.

MLSA general secretary Terry Casey said the union’s demand for pay parity for clinical biochemists dates back to 2001.

He said an expert panel report recommended they be paid the same.

The union leader said pay parity was granted but lost within months due to a procedural error in the civil service benchmark prices in June 2002.