Researchers urge Ontario government to offer more support for medical lab workers
Researchers studying the working conditions of Ontario's medical lab workers is cautioning that patient safety will slip if the government doesn't intervene to support the sector.
Researchers with ties to the University of Toronto, University of Guelph and Laurentian University in collaboration with the Medical Laboratory Professionals' Association of Ontario (MLPAO) shared their findings this week.
"(Lab workers) are experiencing higher rates of burnout, poor job satisfaction, and this is impacting their work performance," Dr. Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia, an occupational therapist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto told CTV News Toronto.
Nowrouzi-Kia and his research partner, Dr. Based Gohar, determined an existing staff shortage and poor work environment have been by deepened by the pandemic.
While Nowrouzi-Kia describes lab professionals as the backbone of the healthcare system, he said they feel under-appreciated and under-resourced compared with other medical workers.
"They're kind of behind-the-scenes. They're not public facing, so oftentimes, the public forgets about them,” he said.
Researchers found that lab workers felt such intense responsibility to turn COVID-19 tests around quickly in the third wave of the pandemic, that they skipped breaks from work to the detriment of their mental health and performance.
Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia says workers will only feel more overloaded if there isn't help for the sector.
"That could for example delay screening for cancer ... someone may not get their results on time and that could impact their health," he cautions.
Michelle Hoad, the CEO for MLPAO, said he wants to see more provincial funding to train the next generation of medical lab professionals and improve labs outside major urban centres.
"I think there's been a lack of understanding that everything that happens in our healthcare system relies on our labs," Hoad said.
Hoad applauds retention bonuses for nurses and new training facilities for doctors but says similar investments have not been made into medical lab professionals.
"We need to make sure that we are included in that conversation that has led us to the current situation," Hoad said.
"We have a mass exodus of people leaving the profession because they just are tired of feeling unappreciated."
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