P.E.I.'s medical lab technologists concerned about workload

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P.E.I.'s medical lab technologists concerned about workload

P.E.I.'s medical lab technologists concerned about workload

Medical laboratory technologists on P.E.I. are feeling stressed because vacancies from maternity leaves are not being filled permanently, says the society representing them.

The P.E.I. Society for Medical Laboratory Science is calling on the provincial government to reinstate a program to bring more of the professionals to the Island. 

Medical laboratory technologists do diagnostic testing, lab tests, blood work, and biopsies that help diagnose and treat disease. There are about 100 MLTs in hospitals across the Island, says the society's president, Rosalie Richard, who has been an MLT for 30 years.

She said recent vacancies and unfilled maternity leaves at the lab at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital have been hard on employees. 

"That puts a lot of stress on the staff here to work extra shifts, to work evenings. And to complete all the work with less staff," Richard said. 

Health PEI says there are five full-time temporary vacancies due to maternity leaves or temporary assignment between the QEH and Prince County Hospital laboratories. One person will be returning full-time in March and another in July. The remaining staff are scheduled to return by early fall.

In the interim, these positions are being temporarily covered by a combination of locum medical laboratory technologists, medical laboratory assistants and the redistribution of some workload between laboratory sites, said Brian Timmons, Health PEI's provincial director of laboratory services, in a written statement. 

Health PEI says staffing nearly full

However, Richard said many of the temporary staff are retired employees over the age of 60 and she fears they will eventually want to retire for good and stop filling in. 

"It's very important, health care would not be able to go forward without lab technology and we need to keep our facility running with qualified educated professionals," Richard said.  

Timmons said several permanent full-time positions have been filled, and staffing at the QEH and across the province is nearly at full complement. He said there is a 0.7 full-time equivalent permanent nighttime position that remains vacant that is being covered by other staff in the interim.

With no MLT program on P.E.I., looming retirements over the next couple of years, and a national shortage, the society is calling on the provincial government to recruit more people and reinstate a program that ran for 10 years, starting in 2003, where the provincial government paid to reserve three spots in a program at New Brunswick Community College. Students signed a contract to work on P.E.I. for two years after graduation.

Richard said without those spots set aside, Island students have to compete with students from other provinces. 

'A great career'

"We want to keep our young people here on P.E.I. to work," she said. "It's a great career."

Health PEI said it feels it will be able to meet its staffing needs in the near future. 

"We feel quite confident that our staffing complement will be stable over the coming years with five Island students in the program in Nova Scotia and three in New Brunswick that we will be able to recruit into our complement at the QEH and across the province," Timmons said.

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