HAMILTON ON (December 16, 2021): “Over the past week the Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario (MLPAO) has watched with concern the sharp spike of new Omicron variant cases in our province.
After Omicron’s arrival in late November, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is now predicting 100% of positive COVID-19 samples will be from this variant before the end of December. We are concerned by the modelling released today by Ontario’s COVID-19 science table that indicates without “circuit breaker” restrictions, our province could be facing 6,000-10,000 cases daily with ICU admissions rising to 600 by the new year.
This projected rise in cases and ICU patients will devastate Ontario’s medical laboratory professionals and testing systems. 70% of Ontario laboratories started COVID-19 short-staffed which has only worsened since. Small lab teams are under extreme pressure. COVID-19 has added 15-70,000 daily polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to their regular volume of approximately 740,000 tests per day for other conditions.
To say medical laboratory professionals are burnt out is an understatement. Entering a third pandemic winter, 95% of lab professionals are reporting working short; 91% are working overtime. 42% are still struggling after two years of testing, with a further 41% feeling worse, headed into deep burnout.
We are already seeing a dramatic increase in COVID-19 testing numbers equivalent to last winter. This week’s projections from our province’s top scientists would be devastating to our laboratories. The wave of new cases would completely overwhelm our laboratories which are already just hanging on by an ever-thinning thread.
Shortages are already affecting testing turnaround times (TATs). If cases increase as predicted, this will get much worse. Although laboratories are currently able to provide test results within 24h, our shortage has meant we have only ever reached a daily high of 76,472, well below the government’s 100,000 target. Medical laboratory professionals are trying as hard as they can, but you can only do so much with so few people.
With cold weather increasing the potential for indoor airborne transmission and more social gatherings, the MLPAO is strongly urging Ontarians to book their vaccination appointments. Vaccines work—although cases are rising, we are not yet seeing the same surge in deaths as last winter.
Our health professionals are working hard. Each Ontarian must do our part as well and follow recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and science advisory table: wear your masks, work from home if available, keep gatherings small, and get vaccinated as soon as you are able. We must stop this surge for the sake of all our frontline workers, especially medical laboratory professionals.”
- Michelle Hoad, CEO, Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario
 Based on a survey of lab leaders and professionals in May 2020.  Based on a survey of medical laboratory professionals in Fall 2021.  Based on a survey of medical laboratory professionals in December 2021.