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Medical scientists are close to burnout and their work ethic is being exploited by the government, one worker has told The Champion. Photograph by Pressfoto

Clare medical scientists ‘overworked and close to burnout’

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OVERWORKED medical scientists operating in Mid-West acute public hospitals are very close to burnout due to chronic staff shortages, poor pay and working conditions, according to one individual involved in a national dispute.

Medical Scientists suspended their second day of industrial action planned for last Wednesday after accepting an invitation to attend the Labour Court for exploratory talks on the dispute.

There are 150 medical scientists working in the UL Hospitals Group including nine in Ennis Hospital, one is on maternity leave and two are part-time.

The Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) has instructed its members to suspend further industrial action and resume work on Wednesday after participating in two days of strike action on Wednesday, May 18, and Tuesday, May 19.

However, the Labour Court will have to resolve a lot of long-standing issues quickly to prevent medical scientists returning to the picket line.

Medical scientists complete a wide range of work processing and analysing blood and urine samples, Covid-19 swabs and stem cell testing.

It is estimated between 1,200 and 1,400 samples are processed in Ennis Hospital on a daily basis.

One medical scientist working in the Mid-West, who opted to remain anonymous, has warned they are very close to burnout.

“We continually have staff shortages in my lab with no immediate prospect of these being filled. This means on any given day I could be performing at least three roles rather than one, leaving
me pulled between jobs and just doing the best I can.”

“In addition to this stressful working environment, we also worked through Covid-19, taking on that extra work, and dealing with the HSE cyber-attack, again with no extra resources.

“After the last two years, I am very close to burnout and wonder how long more the government will keep taking advantage of our work ethic, because that is what it feels like.”

In addition to a 37-hour working week, the scientist also has another mandatory rostered late night and weekend duty.

“With annual leave and sick leave we have been down to three people covering all of the on call hours. As you can imagine, this mandatory overtime affects all aspects of my life including health, home life and social activities.”

The medical scientist outlined the public health system can not attract Biomedical Science students. After five years of college, as they await their final year exam results to become a CORU registered medical scientist, they work as laboratory aides, who they will eventually supervise and be responsible for once qualified and whose starting pay scale is higher than the medical scientist pay scale.

“There is no requirement for lab aides to have any third level qualification. Once the medical scientists are registered with CORU, the first reality check they receive is a pay cut.

“The second and more depressing hit comes, if they do decide to stay for any length of time in the public service, they will work alongside their Biochemist colleagues, performing the same duties but will not receive the same pay or career opportunities.”

“In this day and age, inequality still exists and is tolerated by the publicly-funded health system. To add insult to injury, this pay parity anomaly had been rectified over 20 years ago but was later rescinded.”

“I see a very bleak future for my profession currently, one based on an ageing population of over-stressed, overworked scientists fighting desperately to maintain an under-appreciated, vital integrated service to the public and no signs of help or support for us. I am not alone in this situation; the majority of medical scientists are in the same boat.”

Welcoming the suspension of the dispute, the UL Hospitals’ Group outlined it is making every effort to reinstate as many procedures as possible. Patients should follow the most recent communication they have received in relation to their appointment.

All GP laboratory services operated as normal on Wednesday, and staff will work to reschedule at the earliest opportunity all patients who have been impacted as a result of the industrial action.

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