Up to 30,000 hospital procedures will be cancelled today and tomorrow as medical scientists continue their strike action.
The laboratory workers are refusing to carry out routine lab services from 8am to 8pm for the next two days.
The action will impact on hospital and GP services across the country with tens of thousands of procedures postponed and long delays in Emergency Departments.
Scientists at the Irish Blood Transfusion Service are also joining the action for the first time this week.
The 2,100 scientists are demanding better pay and conditions, better career progression opportunities and more training supports.
Saolta Hospital Group CEO Tony Canavan told Newstalk the strike will badly affect patient care.
“This is going to have a very significant impact across all the hospital services in the country,” he said.
“In the Saolta group, it will affect patients who have already been cancelled for elective surgical procedures, patients who have been cancelled for endoscopy procedures and also patients who have been cancelled for their outpatient appointments during the day today.
“So, the impact on patients is going to be very significant.”
The scientists are organised by the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA).
In a statement, it said it has “made every effort to avoid regrettable disruption to patients” but has been left with no alternative but to continue its strike action.
It said there has been no meaningful approach from the HSE since last week’s strike action.
Mr Canavan said the strike will lead to increased waiting lists.
“For patients who are already in hospital beds, we won’t be able to avail of routine tests for those patients,” he said.
“But also, it has a risk in terms of the length of time now that has been added for patients who are on waiting lists and so on – bearing in mind for example that some of the patients that have been cancelled for today will receive a diagnosis of cancer at some point and of course, the earlier that gets diagnosed and treated, the better for the patient.”
Pay and conditions
MLSA Chair Kevin O’Boyle said the action comes after many rounds of unsuccessful talks with the HSE and the Government.
He said a staffing crisis in the sector was causing severe problems and burnout among workers.
Mr O’Boyle said medical scientists are paid on average 8% less than other colleagues in hospital laboratories, even though they carry out identical work.
He said medical laboratory aides who report to medical scientists start on higher salaries than them.
Meanwhile they fewer career progression opportunities, less training supports and less continuous education supports than their colleagues.
He said a further three-day strike will go ahead next week if no progress is made after this week’s action.