An open letter to PEI laboratory professionals

February 15, 2018
It is with great pride that I saw Rosalie Richard and the PEISMLS stand up publically for lab professionals in Prince Edward Island.  In an article published by CBC News  on February 13, Rosalie, on behalf of the PEISMLS, outlined concerns around the shortage of MLTs and vacancies at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Despite the concerns being downplayed by Health PEI, what Rosalie described is consistent with what we have seen nationally.  The effects of shortages and vacancies are a considerable challenge for laboratory staff as they strive to deliver the best patient care to their communities.

As lab professionals, we know all too well the effect of a relatively small number of vacancies or unfilled positions.  The burden on the remaining staff to maintain turnaround times and keep up with test volumes can have a severely negative effect.  I implore Health PEI to take these concerns seriously.

Demands for lab testing are on the rise nationally. Research indicates that the number and complexity of laboratory tests are increasing.  Ontario had projected a 1.8% per year increase in lab tests between 2005 and 2010.  However, an actual increase of almost 4% per year was experienced. 

Advances in testing capabilities and precision medicine will continue to increase available tests in the future.  For example, the number of genetic tests available has doubled over the past two years. This situation will be further compounded by Canada’s aging population.

Without qualified professionals to produce lab results, quality patient care is impossible. PEI, and the rest of Canada, needs to ensure an adequate supply of qualified laboratory professionals to support the high standard of health care all Canadians expect and deserve.

With the demand for testing on the rise and the supply of laboratory professionals on the decline, we need to focus on increasing the capacity of medical laboratory training programs nationally and ensure that programs are in place to bring qualified lab professionals to the communities that need them most.

I applaud Rosalie and the PEISMLS for their efforts in bringing these important issues to the forefront.

Christine Nielsen
Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science

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