Dear Premier Ford,
One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s medical laboratories are struggling to keep up. Government intervention is required to ensure there is hope on the horizon for exhausted medical laboratory professionals.
We are thankful for your support through higher instrumentation spending (for PCR instruments) and increased front-end testing collection (additional assessment centers and rapid tests).
Unfortunately, the number of people interpreting the tests has not increased at the same rate.
Following training program closures in the 1990s, a decades-long shortage of MLTs has been a persistent barrier to increasing testing capacity. 70% of laboratories entered the pandemic short-staffed and the demand for MLTs is almost double the supply. We have already begun expecting shortages, given that 43% of practicing MLTs will be eligible to retire in the next 4-8 years.
The pandemic is accelerating this staffing reduction. With 86% of laboratory professionals experiencing burnout, some are contemplating exiting the field entirely or retiring early (37%) or at least stepping back for stress or sick leave (44%).
This past year, Ontario’s medical laboratory professionals have worked around the clock to complete over 11.4 million tests. However, several times through the year we have fallen short of your testing targets. This is not a result of a lack of effort or commitment on the part of laboratory professionals. They are working double shifts and postponing retirement because they care about their patients. When we do fall short, it is because there is an unchanging number of MLTs to interpret results.
Missed targets are not a result of unrealistic government expectations either—Ontarians deserve a high-capacity testing system, where over 100,000 PCR tests can be processed and reported daily. As we look forward to easing restrictions, additional testing will be required to ensure families and businesses remain safe. We need to address this final piece of the puzzle to get there.
The Ministry of Finance confirmed receipt of our Pre-Budget Submission. We implore you to consider this proposal to address the human resource shortage through increased seats in MLT programs and streamlined clinical placements.
We understand this problem has short-term and long-term solutions and would welcome a chance to speak with you further about how to move forward.
Michelle Hoad, CAE
Chief Executive Officer, Medical Laboratory Professionals’ Association of Ontario
Cc: The Hon. Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance
The Hon. Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
The Hon. Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development
The Hon. Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities
Andrea Horwath MPP, Leader, Official Opposition – Ontario New Democratic Party
Steven Del Duca, Leader - Ontario Liberal Party
 Based on a survey of 2212 lab leaders and professionals in May 2020.  Based on data submitted by medical laboratory employers and HR departments in Fall 2020.  CMLTO Annual Report 2019, assuming retirement eligibility at 55.