Ontario lab technologists grapple with burnout, demand more funding from province

TORONTO — As demand for COVID-19 tests in Ontario remains high, technologists at short-staffed medical labs are grappling with burnout and struggling to keep pace.

“It’s a critical time for us to say need assistance immediately,” Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario CEO Michelle Hoad told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “I think it’s time to say: ‘Enough is enough. We need some help.’”

Hoad says that 92 per cent of lab technologists are working overtime and 97 per cent of labs are short staffed. In addition, 66 per cent of lab technologists have not been able to take a vacation.

As well, data from the association found that 87 per cent of lab technologists are experiencing burnout and 42 per cent are contemplating leaving the industry. The association also says that 41 per cent of technologists are eligible for retirement within two to four years.

To make matters worse, Hoad says that large U.S. companies have been enticing the few remaining lab technologists in Ontario to leave the country and work for them.

“We’re talking $10,000, $20,000 signing bonuses to go to the U.S. We don’t want that to happen, so we need some action now,” Hoad said.

The association has issued a three-phase call to action directed at the Ontario government. In the first phase, the provincial government would provide $3.6 million in funding over three years to create more clinical placements for students.

“The first phase is really looking at helping us provide more assistance to our hospital labs and our private labs so they can take students, that’s the first bottleneck,” said Hoad.

The second phase calls for $2.6 million over three years for labs in rural remote areas in Northern Ontario. The third phase calls for the province to develop a simulation laboratory, or a training laboratory that offers hand-on experience for students, focusing on rural, remote and northern communities.

Without this funding, the association says that lab personnel shortages would result in longer hospital stays, duplicate family doctor appointments and overall poorer care that could cost taxpayers $1.6 billion annually.

Hoad says the association has sent their call to action to the province and are waiting to hear back.

“Respectfully, I understand that there’s a lot happening with our government right now, so we just want to make sure that they pay attention and someone actually starts to do something,” she said.

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