Our trip to Queen’s Park started very early for some of us. We departed Hamilton at 6 a.m., picked up some team members and caught the Burlington 7:11 a.m. Go Train into Toronto. We were joined by a few others along the Go Train route. We knew we had a full day and opted to walk the 2.8 km from Union Station to Queen’s Park. It was a chilly day with the wind and, needless to say, we were awake with rosy cheeks ready to start the day when we arrived.
Members of parliament were scattered throughout Queen’s Park. Some in the main buildings, while others located in adjacent buildings. Our first meeting began at 9 a.m and the last meeting scheduled would take place at 4:30 p.m. We had over 30 meetings scheduled amongst our team of 15.
The composition of our team took a very circuitous route.
I received a call from Dr. Corwyn Roswell, Pathologist, Unity Health, Chair of the Ontario Pathologist Association, two years ago during the pandemic offering his help in any way to help promote our message. I was invited to speak to the Ontario Pathologist Association over the winter and I kept in touch with Corwyn.
When lobby day approached, I thought it would be a good time to take him up on the offer for help. He accepted immediately and then told me that his Vice Chair Dr. Nancy Liu, Pathologist, Mackenzie Health, Vice Chair of the Ontario Pathologist Association would be joining us as well.
Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association (EORLA) has been a great stakeholder of the MLPAO, with all the media work that we did during the COVID-19 pandemic. I had the opportunity to meet Jeffery Dale CEO of EORLA online and he was extremely helpful with any media messaging that was required. Over the past few years, the relationship strengthened, as we both have the same goal: to increase the number of MLTs in the province. Jeffrey joined us on our Lobby Day in 2022, and this year joined again, but brought additional support through, Dennis Garvin, VP, EORLA.
Our Board Chair Jessie Clelland is passionate about lobbying and has attended Lobby Day for two consecutive years. This year she didn’t think twice about volunteering. To support our team John Soltys, Director MLPAO, Patti Legere, Director MLPAO, both offered to attend as well.
Our team was shaping up to be a strong one.
We wanted representation from a large health care centre and our newest Board Advisor, Lisa Merkley, Operations Director, Precision Diagnostics and Therapeutics Program, Laboratory Medicine/Medical Imaging, did a tremendous job. She had past experience touring Minister Jones around the Sunnybrook laboratory during Med Lab Week in April 2022 and had set the relationship. We knew she would be a valuable asset to our team. We extended the invitation and she happily accepted and advised she was bringing additional support through Dr. Kevin Katz, Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control (IP&C) at North York General Hospital (NYGH).
During the past year, we have also supported partners applying for the Skills Development Fund through the Ministry of Labour Skills, Training and Development. Mohawk College and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) are looking to develop an accelerated Genetics MLT program and have applied for this funding. They submitted a second application in this 4th round of funding, and we knew this was a great opportunity to bring this to the attention of the Ministry. We invited HHS and we were happy to have Amanda Cocca, Manager, Genetics, Molecular Hematology and Malignant Hematology, Hamilton Regional Laboratory Medicine Program (HRLMP), join us as a member of our MLPAO Lobby Day team.
We still needed a western and northern representative.
Weeks prior to our scheduled Lobby Day, we were invited to attend the launch of the BD Keistra at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). Unfortunately, it coincided with our Lobby Day and I was unable to attend. We visited LHSC that week to get a glimpse of the snazzy new track instrument and were impressed by the amazing work done by Abby Cozier, Sue Milburn, and Nicole Girotti. On our tour we were able to recruit Alan Stuart, Manager, Molecular Diagnostics at LHSC. I heard back from Alan the next day and we were ready to go. Alan would be a great second support to speak to the shortage of genetic MLTs.
Our board meeting was scheduled for the day after our Lobby Day, and we extended the invitation to Jennifer Sanna-White, Manager Lab Services, Red Lake Hospital to join us. This ended up being one of the best decisions we made. Jennifer could speak to the shortage of MLTs up north, a perspective that was desperately needed.
Our team was almost complete, but not yet.
At the end of September, I had the opportunity to tour the labs north of Toronto, with stops at Royal Victoria, Orillia, Georgian Bay, and West Parry Sound. During these visits it became very apparent that the shortage of MLTs is everywhere. There has been a misconception that the underserviced areas have only been up north, and that was not a true perspective. I had met Heather Gillis a few years ago; seeing her again, visiting her team, and listening to their challenges confirmed for me that we needed Heather with us. She accepted graciously. Heather is the Operations Director, Depts. of Medical Imaging, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Royal Victoria Regional Health Center and could represent her hospital well.
Lastly, joining me from the office was Andrea Tjahja, VP, Professional Practice at the MLPAO. Andrea was an MLT at HRLMP and her perspective was extremely valuable. Our team was complete.
We had spoken to Windsor and Thunder Bay and due to other commitments, they could not join us, but both wished us the best on our Lobby Day
We had extended the invitation to over 100 MPPs to meeting. We had over 25 successful meetings. We also pushed our Pre-Budget Submission to our membership and encouraged them to send a letter to their MPP. This resulted in 5 additional meetings and ongoing scheduling that is occurring.
We can use your help. Please visit our Pre-Budget Submission page, download the template letter, load it with your MPP's information provided through the MPP search link, and send it off. Every letter matters.
If you have an MPP that would like to speak to us, please connect with us at email@example.com.
For a review of the day, explore our Lobbying page.
Thank you to all our volunteers that participated. Our voice is getting louder.