Mounting shortage of medical lab techs hurts most in rural Alberta, expert says

Medical lab technologists are raising the alarm about a shortage in their profession in Alberta and across the country.

The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) met with MPs and government officials in Ottawa Tuesday to talk about the issue.

Sonja Chamberlin, an associate dean at SAIT and a member of the society, says Canada's aging population is creating an increased demand for lab tests, including blood and DNA tests, cancer screening, and other increasingly sophisticated medical tests. 

But with too few graduates to fill the positions opening as older workers retire in the coming years, the problem is going to get worse, Chamberlin says.

Backlogs

"In the rural and remote areas in Alberta we're already seeing difficulties in filling positions. So open positions are taking, you know, months to fill and that's creating backlogs in testing," she said.

Post-secondary institutions are unable to increase capacity because there is a lack of clinical placements for students in Calgary and Edmonton, Chamberlin said.

According to CSMLS, almost 50 per cent of its members will retire over the next 10 years.

CSMLS president Mary Costantino said in a release that the meeting in Ottawa was a good opportunity to talk about the mounting problem.

"While the greatest current impact is in our rural and remote communities, the consequences of not addressing the underlining causes could create measurable delays in medical testing," she said.

The group is calling on the federal government to fund research that could help post-secondary institutions find ways to get students trained and working in the field more quickly. 

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