Industrial action by medical scientists set to cause 'significant disruption' to Cork patients

Patients in Cork have been advised that "significant disruption and service delays" are to be expected due to planned industrial action.
Industrial action by medical scientists set to cause 'significant disruption' to Cork patients

The industrial action has been planned by the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA). Stock image.

The South/South West Hospital Group has advised the public of “significant disruption and service delays” in its hospitals on Wednesday.

It comes as planned industrial action by the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) is due to take place tomorrow.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the hospital group said that the disruption across its hospital will be in place from 8am to 8pm.

The industrial action will lead to the cancellation of many inpatient and day-case elective procedures and hospital outpatient appointments across the country, including at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and the Mercy University Hospital (MUH).

Routine GP testing services will be suspended for the day and while some limited services will continue wide-scale disruption to patients services cannot be avoided.

The South/South West Hospital Group is requesting that members of the general public only attend Emergency Departments if absolutely necessary and management has reminded the general public to explore all other options available to them prior to attending an Emergency Department.

“Emergency Departments will continue as always to prioritise the treatment of the sickest and most urgent patients.

Hospitals in the South/South West Hospital Group have been contacting patients directly to cancel appointments. As this is a developing situation the South/South West Hospital Group is asking patients not to phone hospitals at this time.

“Hospitals will provide further clarity as soon as possible and information from all hospitals is available on www.hse.ie/disruptions,” the statement read.

Stock image.
Stock image.

A statement released by the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) read: “The hospital fully recognises the right of MLSA members to engage in the industrial relations process in pursuit of a national claim to achieve restoration of pay parity and equal career progression with clinical biochemists.

“The hospital is working with the MLSA and the HSE in respect of MUH’s contingency plans to ensure emergency cover arrangements are in place. 

Services will be operational but restricted for the work stoppage on Wednesday, 18 May which will commence at 8am and finish at 8pm.

Management have informed patients that oncology day services at the Lee Clinic will remain open, as will the MUH Local Injury Unit in St. Mary’s Health Campus.

The Emergency Department at the hospital will remain open for the duration of the industrial action on a 24/7 basis, however, the hospital is urging patients, where possible, to use alternative health facilities such as GP services, SouthDoc, and their local pharmacist as there will be an impact on patient waiting times and therefore delays are inevitable.

The Outpatients Department will be closed and all patient appointments have been cancelled. Non-emergency planned inpatient and day case procedures have also been cancelled and all affected patients have been offered a prioritised alternative appointment.

The strikes in question are seeking to address a 20-year pay disparity issue, the shortage of medical scientists, and the lack of career progression.

Cork University Hospital, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Cork University Hospital, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Speaking to The Echo, spokesperson for St James’s hospital and CORU State Registered Medical Scientist Aileen Hartnett said: “20 years is far too long to wait for the HSE to solve a pay disparity issue where our colleagues known as biochemists get paid approximately 8% more than us for doing the exact same work.” 

She said that each time a patient goes to their GP for routine blood work, a sore throat, or any sort of infection, samples are sent to the laboratories to be processed and medical scientists then provide the diagnosis and suitable treatment options.

Moreover, hospitals and emergency medicine cannot function without laboratories. Behind every sample and test, there are highly qualified scientists.

“We are the backbone of the health service, responsible for 80% of clinical diagnoses, and the health service cannot run without us. It's time for the HSE to solve this issue for once and stop pushing the can down the road,” she said.

Speaking about the planned industrial action, a spokesperson for the HSE said: “While efforts are continuing to try to avert this action, the HSE is working with the MLSA to ensure arrangements are in place tomorrow for the provision of a limited range of services safely.”

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