A hospital group chief has said the threat of three days of strike action by medical laboratory scientists next week “does not bear thinking about.”
A strike is already under way today and tomorrow involving the withdrawal of routine laboratory services, such as the analysing of blood and urine samples, scans and other tests, from 8am to 8pm.
Strike organisers, the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA), have warned that its members will be left with no choice but to strike for three days next week if no resolution is found by the end of this week.
Tony Canavan, chief executive of the Saolta hospital group which provides services to the west and northwest of the country, said hundreds of routine tests will be cancelled at both GPs and in hospitals due to the strike currently under way.
He told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the lack of testing will mean that patients in hospital beds could be put at risk, as without testing, any changes in their condition might not be detected quickly enough for action.
Derogations had been agreed by the union for the scientists to provide some vital services, including testing in emergency departments and intensive care units along with cancer services. Chemotherapy appointments will go ahead.
However, some elective surgical procedures will be cancelled and they will be determined on a case by case basis, he said.
Mr Canavan pointed out that waiting lists had already been extended because of Covid-19 and while efforts had been ongoing to reduce them, the strike will lead to further delays.
Every effort will be made to reschedule appointments, but it was difficult to say how long it would take, he said.
Patient flow through hospitals, which relies on testing, will also slow down as a result of the strike which will lead to emergency departments becoming backed up.
Medical scientists were integral to the delivery of care in hospitals so the strike would have a “significant impact” on patients, he added.
There had been many opportunities to resolve the issue before now, he said. The stakeholders, including the HSE and Department of Health, were “keen to talk” but they were constrained because of the national pay agreement.
Mr Canavan said there were many anomalies with pay at different grades, which was why discussions were important and should happen as soon as possible.
There was “absolutely no doubt” that it was going to be a difficult two days this week. “The thought of three days (strike) next week doesn’t bear thinking about.”