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Letter: Recognition for Ontario’s Medical Laboratory Professionals in Omicron Outbreak

December 22, 2021

Dr. Kieran Moore

Chief Medical Officer of Health - Ontario

Box 12, Toronto, ON M7A 1N3

RE: Recognition for Ontario’s Medical Laboratory Professionals in Omicron Outbreak

Dear Dr. Moore,

We want to thank you for your guidance of Ontarians to make sure they are protected with vaccinations, gathering limitations, and other measures, as well as share the current situation in our medical laboratories.

This week you noted the struggle to complete PCR testing is not yet a consistent issue across the province. We know connectivity between Laboratory Information Systems (LIS) in certain areas is a huge concern, leading to reporting issues. This is just the start of capacity challenges now surfacing—medical laboratory professionals have worked under the extreme pressure of both a pandemic and a staffing shortage for the past 22 months.

As you may be aware, 70% of Ontario’s labs were understaffed at the onset of the pandemic. Entering a third pandemic winter, 80% of lab professionals are reporting spending more time working (overtime, double shifts) or asked to do more in the same amount of time. We have been struggling with this shortage throughout the pandemic. Our highest daily testing rate was 76,472, well below the 100,000 target. Our members are trying hard for their patients. They can only do so much with so few people.

Testing capacity is not just an issue in areas currently being hard hit by the omicron variant. It is being experienced in many hospitals, from those in rural Ontario to large urban centers. Our hospital stakeholders are reaching out to us directly indicating that turnaround times are being affected in all areas of the lab—not just PCR testing for COVID-19 but also cancer, infection, and other tests. Delayed turnaround times affect the health of all Ontarians.

Yesterday you thanked those Ontarians getting tested for COVID-19, and we share that gratitude for those responsible people. However, Ontario’s medical laboratory professionals are in a very dark place right now. We hope you will recognize those doing the testing as well--42% are still struggling after wo years of testing, with a further 41% feeling worse, headed into deep burnout.

Our pandemic response demands that we direct attention to laboratory services, at all levels, at long last. We need a cohesive LIS and solutions for our health human resources shortage, or at the very least, solutions which take these circumstances into account. Expanded lab capacity empowers us to respond to case and contact management and prevent further spread. We hope your decision-making and public statements respond to the situation of Medical Laboratory Technologists and Medical Laboratory Assistant/Technicians moving forward.

Michelle Hoad, CAE

Chief Executive Officer

Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario

2021.12.23 MLPAO - Our Laboratories are Struggling
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