2022 Lobbying Initiatives
In 2021, the MLPAO applied for and received funding from the Skills Development Fund through the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD). We were seeing the need to build immediate laboratory capacity for COVID-19 testing given the shortage of MLTs, as well as offering upgrades to promote career advancement and enhancement for both MLTs and MLA/Ts.
We were awarded $94,616 to develop a course covering the theoretical and practical knowledge relevant to COVID-19 PCR testing, oncology, prenatal genetics, and genetic variants.
This course launched in January 2022. Accredited by P.A.C.E.®, this 6-hour course is intended to expand knowledge of MLA/Ts working in molecular diagnostics labs as well as MLTs and MLA/Ts working in other areas of the laboratory to support MLTs with COVID-19 and other Molecular Diagnostics testing.
An incredible team of MLTs worked together to produce this course as soon as funding was allocated in July. They also work together at the Hamilton Regional Laboratory Medicine Program (HRLMP). Barry Eng, B.Sc., MLT is a Technical Specialist Genetics at HRLMP and Lecturer in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, McMaster University. Anna Haasen, B.Sc., MLT is a Technical Specialist Genetics at HRLMP. Betty-Ann Hohenadel, B.Sc., MLT, is a Clinical Genetics Technologist at HRLMP.
Over the past several years, the MLPAO has been working hard to build working relationships with the Ministry of Health. We have been speaking with our contacts about how to take steps towards our Call to Action and address shortages in our labs. In February, our voice was heard at Queen's Park. Director, Health Workforce Planning David Lamb gave an update to our membership on February 2: Supporting Health Human Resources Planning Now and in the Future. Mr. Lamb presented the Ministry of Health's plan to address Health Human Resources issues, followed by a Q+A. He commended the MLPAO for our research and advocacy efforts and showed the plans for the inclusion of the lab in health workforce planning moving forward.
Results from research by Dr. Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia and Dr. Basem Gohar—affiliated with the University of Guelph, Laurentian University, and the University of Toronto—were published in March. Many of our members participated in a survey or focus group for the study, which investigated the workplace mental health of medical laboratory professionals through COVID-19 in Ontario.
Results were published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, "The Forgotten (Invisible) Healthcare Heroes: Experiences of Canadian Medical Laboratory Employees Working During the Pandemic," and the International Journal of Health Planning and Management, "Factors associated with burnout among medical laboratory professionals in Ontario, Canada: An exploratory study during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Results show significant burnout and workplace stress following a lack of recognition for laboratory professionals. Read the reports here.
We had a very successful lobbying week, especially considering restricted MPP availability given the impending budget announcement and provincial election. We had one more meeting than 2021, and also had meetings for the first time with the Minister of Health and Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
We met with Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development - Monte McNaughton, France Gelinas, Health Critic, MPP Sam Oosterhoff, MPP Ted Arnott, MPP Dave Smith, MPP Raymond Cho, and MPP Rudy Cuzzetto.
2021 Lobbying Initiatives
2021 Lobby Day - #MedLabThx
Our lobby day efforts took the form of meetings and a video campaign.
We got videos with words of thanks from Premier Doug Ford, Hon. Christine Elliott - Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, MPP France Gélinas - Opposition Health Critic, Steven Del Duca - Leader, Ontario Liberal Party, Hon. Monte McNaughton - Minister of Labour, Training & Skills Development, Hon. Jeff Yurek - Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, MPP Billy Pang - Markham Unionville, MPP Jamie West - Sudbury, MPP Effie Triantafilopoulos - Oakville North—Burlington, and MPP Stephen Blais – Orleans. We also got thanks from mayors across the province. Review all the videos and proclamations here: https://www.mlpao.org/thanks.
We had meetings with MPP France Gelinas (NDP Health Critic), MPP Effie Triantafilopoulos (PC - PA Long-Term Care), MPP Robin Martin (PC - PA Minister of Health) MPP Joel Harden (NDP - Ottawa Centre), MPP John Fraser (LIB - Ottawa South), MPP Chris Glover (NDP - Spadina-Fort York), MPP Billy Pang (PC - Markham—Unionville).
January 2021 - present
Our multi-step plan to address the MLT shortages, Action Now for Ontario Labs, continues in 2021. Action Now for Ontario Labs is a multi-phase project bringing together employers, educators, laboratory professionals, and government to understand the ongoing laboratory human resource shortage.
January 6 we met with the leader of the Official Opposition MPP Andrea Horwath to share challenges the lab has been facing for many years. We hope this bipartisan approach ensures our message is heard by all parties and continues to keep chronic issues in the lab top of mind for legislators.
On February 12, the Ministry of Finance confirmed receipt of our Pre-Budget Submission on the MLT Shortage Crisis in Ontario Laboratories. Our submission outlines the roots of this issue and shares some current statistics about the shortage. We explain the major road blocks of training and clinical placements, as well as highlighting some currently under-served areas. Read our Pre-Budget Submission here.
We submitted a Skills Development Fund application February 26 for a training project to support MLTs testing for COVID-19.
On the anniversary of the first emergency orders in Ontario, we are still advocating for our members. After reading OPSEU/SEFPO’s news release on March 5 calling for “immediate and significant funding to expand the capacity of Ontario’s public health laboratories," we sent this letter of support. On March 10 we sent this letter to Premier Doug Ford, including top cabinet ministers, taking stock of the year and highlighting the human resource shortage as a barrier to increased testing.
April 29 we met with a variety of different government branches, including Health Workforce Regulatory Oversight, Ontario Health, the Provincial Diagnostic Network, Laboratory and Genetics, Global Health Policy and Research, Accountability and Liaison, Health Quality and Funding Division, and more. Our message of the shortage was confirmed by the group, and they agreed poaching MLTs from other labs is not a solution. They are receptive to potential solutions and have agreed to review our proposal for input prior to submission to the government.
January 2021 - December 2021
Focus groups and analysis began for this study entitled ‘Examining the mental health and well-being of medical laboratory technologists and medical laboratory technicians/assistants in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic’.
If you are a medical laboratory professional working through COVID-19 (both in COVID-19 labs and labs doing other testing), please participate in this study into burnout, low morale, or other mental health and well-being concerns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about the study and participate, please click here.
Principal Investigator Dr. Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia is an occupational therapist and assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. This is a joint research project with the University of Guelph.
July 2021 - Prepared by Judy Tran, MLT MBA - Independent Research Consultant
To further quantify the research begun in 2019 around the MLT Human Resource Shortage, we initiated a further research project to investigate the issue of clinical placements as an impacting factor in the shortage of MLTs. Following interviews with 22 stakeholders, a literature review, and a 2-hour think-tank with 18 participants, this report proposes short- and long-term advocacy recommendations. These include funding for clinical placements, increasing student throughput, investing in simulation education, and supporting recruitment and retention in rural and remote laboratories. Click here to read the report.
August 2021 - December 2021
Following on our Clinical Placement research, we developed a Call to Action to address Health Human Resources shortages in Ontario laboratories. We developed a Return on Investment estimating that Without intervention, ongoing MLT shortages could cost taxpayers over $1.6 billion dollars annually in increased wait-times and lengthened hospital stays, negatively impacting patient health.
Building on the proposals within the clinical placements report, we put together a 3-phase approach of $6.2M over 4 years:
Phase 1 – 2022-2025: Laboratory Externship Program – $3.6M (total over 3 years)
Clinical placements (externship) are a major roadblock for both laboratories and training programs, making this a target area to alleviate MLT shortages. Labs are not able to take on students due to their staffing shortage. Schools are not able to take on more students due to lack of externships. This funding is needed immediately.
Phase 2 – 2023-2026: Northern Health Program - Laboratory - $2.6M (total over 3 years)
Rural and remote areas are most impacted by this shortage, necessitating a targeted recruitment and retention strategy to support healthcare in these communities.
Phase 3 – 2024: Develop Ontario Simulation Laboratory
Further research currently being conducted to determine capital investment required.
Once the report was developed, we built stakeholder support for the proposal by getting 50 co-signatories endorsing the report from hospitals, healthcare centres, laboratory networks, vendors, and professional associations. Following this proposal, our CEO Michelle Hoad also met and built relationships with hospital CEOs, speaking with them about the shortage concerns and highlighting the importance of laboratory services. Click here to visit our Call to Action Page.
2019 Lobbying Initiatives
This spring, we commissioned a report to find out if the MLT shortage is real. A preliminary report was provided in June. Upon review, further feedback was required to ensure all stakeholders perspectives were included. The final report is now available.
At Queen's Park: Ivonne Mellozzi and Seetha Kumaresh
On November 22 we met with Ivonne Mellozzi, Acting of the Post-Secondary Accountability Branch and Seetha Kumaresh, Manager of the Universities Unit of the MTCU. We spoke with them about the training roadblocks that stand in the way of MLTs entering the healthcare field.
They encouraged us to figure out why if the labs are facing these shortages in staffing, the colleges aren’t rising to meet the challenge. They encouraged us to look at training examples, reach out to the Minister’s office, link in Colleges Ontario (an advocacy group for the colleges),
and engage employers to reach out to colleges. The info-graphic we presented them with detailing the shortages and the training landscape in Ontario is available here!
At Queen's Park: Stephanie Akers and Tim Blakley
On October 16, 2019 we met with Stephanie Akers, Manager - Health Workforce Evidence Unit and Tim Blakley, Manager - Health Workforce Strategic Policy Unit. We spoke about the impending shortage of MLTs in Ontario. Though they acknowledged the issue, they shared with us that there is no new money available. They stated that hearing the same message from many interest groups would help our cause, as well as
highlighting patient impact, tying the issue to hallway healthcare, and providing an ROI argument. They also suggested we meet with the Accountability Branch of the MTCU.
At Queen's Park: Neeta Sarta, Elizabeth Roediger, and Maricon Sanelli
On Wednesday September 11th, 2019 we met again with the Ministry of Health. The MLPAO was supported by Mt. Sinai Hospital's Administrative Director, Microbiology Christine Bruce, who joined us for our meeting with Neeta Sarta, Director Lab and Genetics Branch, Elizabeth Roediger, Senior Program Consultant - Policy Development Unit (Health), and Maricon Sanelli, Manager - Laboratories and Diagnostic Services Unit (Health). Neeta Sarta is replacing Bonnie Reib, who recently retired. We talked about rural and remote communities experiencing difficulties attracting and retaining lab professionals.
When discussing about clinical placements and the preparedness of graduating students, they mentioned that in the Ontario Health Team (OHT) model the ministry could allocate funding to the OHT for additional in-lab student placements or other lab related expenditures only to have the OHT reallocate the funding once it was received. They encouraged us to work with individual hospitals – from the top down: from the CEO
to the Lab. They recommended that we follow up David Lamb, Health Workforce Regulatory Oversight.
At Queen's Park: Tina Yuan and Briana Maguire
Both Tina Yuan and Briana Maguire are Policy Advisors with the MOH, reporting directly into Christine Elliott. Ms. Maguire specifically is responsible for laboratory work. Both were new to the position and are trying to understand how labs work, and as a result had great questions. We spoke with them although many changes to optimize are being made, that labs are utilizing MLA/Ts to their fullest scope of practice, we are still anticipating a shortage. We shared that something needs to happen or patient services will be impacted.
They committed to reviewing how they could address our recommendations of the immediate need to help rural and remote communities, increase seats in MLT programs and increase clinical placements. We followed up the day after this meeting with the full report of the recent survey regarding the shortage of MLTs.
At Queen's Park: MPP David Piccini
On June 20, we met with MPP, David Piccini. He is the Member of Provincial Parliament for Northumberland-Peterborough South. He currently serves as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities and is a member of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.
Mr. Piccini was sympathetic to our issues and took the time to investigate the possibility of adding more seats. His office provided a response stating that the current government is not allocating additional funding to current programs. We would need to find the solutions in the private sector. His office did suggest that we participate in local program advisory committees at educational institutions that determine which seats are allocated for each program. Informing these committees of the impending shortages may be our best option to influence the number of seats in MLT programs.
MLPAO efforts to save the Allied Health Professional Development Fund
A meeting was called with the Allied Health Professional Development Fund (AHPDF) Steering committee which led to a second meeting with our other Allied Health Professional partners to discuss a joint lobbying strategy and to finalize a plan. Two weeks ago, the group met again and drafted a formal briefing note to be signed by all of the parties and used by all parties to discuss with government about how important the fund is to our professionals and how it affects patients in Ontario.
Our partners in the lobbying effort include audiologists, speech language pathologists, dietitians, medical radiation technologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and respiratory therapists who represent over 55,000 of Ontario's front-line health care professionals.
We were notified that the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care will be sending the first installment of transfer payment for 2019-2020 AHPDF funding on April 15th, 2019. We were notified on January 27, 2020 that the initiative will be cancelled as of March 2, 2020 and is winding down. Our CEO Michelle Hoad was interviewed by Jack Hauen of Queen's Park Briefing, a publication distributed to politicians, bureaucrats, and other stakeholders, about the cancellation. Click here to read our statement!
2020 Lobbying Initiatives
Fall 2020 - December 2020
For years now, the MLPAO has been hearing about and advocating for the impending shortage of MLTs in Ontario. The final report of our MLT HHR Environmental Scan, released in November 2019, confirmed what we had been hearing all along: the MLT shortage is real.
Our multi-step plan to address the MLT shortages, Action Now for Ontario Labs was released September 1. Action Now for Ontario Labs is a multi-phase project bringing together employers, educators, laboratory professionals, and government to understand the ongoing laboratory human resource shortage.
As part of the first stage of the action plan, a survey was issued to Ontario lab leaders. Preliminary analysis of data suggests troubling shortages of medical laboratory professionals. Read the review of the initial data, released October 23, here.
We sent a registered letter to Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Ross Romano September 3 to request a meeting about this initiative and finding solutions for Ontario Laboratories. Read the letter here.
We followed up with registered letters to Minister Romano and Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton on November 4. Read the letter here.
September - December 2020
Principal Investigator Dr. Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia is an occupational therapist and assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto begins a joint research project with the University of Guelph:‘Examining the mental health and well-being of medical laboratory technologists and medical laboratory technicians/assistants in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic’.
March 2020 - December 2020
COVID-19 became front and center during the middle of March 2020. The MLPAO moved quickly to create a public relations campaign, knowing lab professionals would be at epicenter of the pandemic.
As Medical Laboratory professionals continued fighting COVID-19 as front-line healthcare workers, the MLPAO has been speaking with local, provincial, and national media sources about turnaround times, COVID-19 testing processes, and the hidden heroes working hard in labs across the province. Click here to view all our media appearances.
We also developed a significant public awareness campaign during Med Lab Week called #medlabthx to share the faces of medical laboratory professionals fighting COVID-19 with Ontarians, and to share patients' thanks for medical laboratory professionals to those working at their local lab. To see the stories, pictures, and thank yous, click here.
These public awareness efforts have been supporting our advocacy for the profession during COVID-19 through letters to Premier Doug Ford (Letter 1 Letter 2 Letter 3 Letter 4), Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Minister of Long Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, ADM Michael Hillmer, and others. We have been a vocal supporter of labs through the pandemic, bringing to the attention of the government the situation in Ontario laboratories.
On July 1 we sent a registered letter to Minister of Health Christine Elliott requesting a meeting. Read the letter here.
On August 1 we sent a second registered letter to Minister of Health Christine Elliott requesting a meeting. Read the letter here
March 2020 - present
As soon as COVID-19 struck Ontario, our CEO Michelle Hoad has been participating in daily Ministry Emergency Operations Centre meetings with the Ministry of Health. We have been sharing reports from these meetings through our MLPAO Update newsletters sent to members. At these meetings, we have been taking the feedback we heard from lab professionals and pushing for changes with the ministry.
April - June 2020
After a very strong public relations campaign (including our Not Included video campaign), advocacy with the Ministry of Health, direct conversation with policy advisors of the premier, support letters from the Ontario Medical Association, Ontario Association of Pathologists, and Unions, we were still not included in the Temporary Pandemic Pay initiative. We have been advised that this was a political decision. There were 375,000 healthcare workers approved for TPP, but several other regulated health care groups were also excluded (e.g. MRTs and physiotherapists). Our CEO provided a full explanation for members at our Summer Town Hall in late June. Email us to request a video link to this town hall update! Click here to learn more about this campaign.