Hospitals are facing further severe disruption from Tuesday due to two days of strikes by medical scientists over pay and career development issues.
Thousands of procedures and outpatient appointments are likely to be cancelled as a result of the industrial action by almost 2,000 members of the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA).
All routine GP testing services are being suspended between 8am and 8pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, though dialysis and some cancer services will continue, according to the HSE.
“We anticipate this action will have a knock-on effect on emergency departments and is expected to lead to delays for patients with non-urgent care needs,” a HSE spokeswoman said, adding that emergency departments would operate as normal in prioritising the treatment of the sickest and most urgent cases.
The strike follows one day of industrial action last week, which resulted in the cancellation of 14,000 outpatient appointments. A further three days of strikes are planned for next week.
People Before Profit is to bring a Dáil motion on Wednesday calling on the HSE and the Department of Public Expenditure to agree to the association’s pay parity claim.
The MLSA says members are frustrated over long-standing issues and voted to take industrial action last November, with 98 per cent of participants in favour.
The strike is going ahead after industrial relations talks with employers failed to reach agreement earlier this year. Medical scientists are seeking pay parity with biochemists who also work in hospital labs. The MLSA says its members carry out identical work but are paid on average 8 per cent less.
Other issues on which the union wants resolution include the filling of the 20 per cent of medical scientists’ posts that are unfilled in hospitals, more support for training and education, and recognition of the increasing workload of laboratory diagnostics.
The HSE says patients whose care is affected are being contacted and there is no need to phone hospitals. Appointments and procedures disrupted by the strikes will be rescheduled “as soon as possible”, it said.