Escalating shortage of lab professionals threatens patient care

Ottawa (10 April 2008) ... In the lead-up to National Medical Laboratory Week, Canadas largest organization of health science professionals is sounding alarm bells that accessible and high quality patient care is threatened by an escalating shortage of medical laboratory technologists across the country.

-Most governments are in denial about the escalating shortage of medical laboratory technologists," says Elisabeth Ballermann, co-chair of the Canadian Health Professionals Secretariat (CHPS). -They need to wake up and take urgent action otherwise patient care in this country is going to be seriously compromised."

National Medical Laboratory Week is being celebrated April 13-19 across Canada.

Medical laboratory professionals are an essential component of Canadas health care system. The results of medical laboratory tests provide crucial information to doctors so that they can accurately diagnose, treat and monitor patients. Moreover, the ability of the public health system to detect an infectious disease outbreak and identify the cause depends on a strong, well-functioning laboratory system.

In the early 1990s, most provincial governments reduced the number of medical laboratory training programs, resulting in fewer technologists graduating every year and producing the current level of shortages. Many groups are warning that these shortages will escalate rapidly as large numbers of older workers begin to retire. The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) has warned that almost 50% of medical laboratory technologists will retire in the next decade.

-The decrease in graduates means there is already a severe shortage," says Ballermann. -If you combine that with the predicted retirement rate it means that our already-stretched laboratory system is going to face even more pressure."

The CHPS wants provincial and federal governments to develop a national strategy and to put additional resources into attracting and retaining medical laboratory technologists.

-The strategy must include more funding to create hundreds of new positions in education programs and clinical training, and it must include a plan to recruit people to fill those positions," says Ballermann.

The CHPS is a national advocacy body that represents more than 60,000 unionized health science professionals who deliver the diagnostic, clinical and rehabilitation services essential to timely and quality health care.

More information:
● Contact: Mike Luff (613) 228-9800