70% of Ontario lab workers want to quit, assoc. CEO says

Most laboratory workers in Ontario are considering leaving their jobs and many are feeling burnout similar to nurses, according to the executive director of the Medical Laboratory Professionals Association of Ontario (MLPAO).

Michelle Hoad tells CP24 that lab workers across the province are overwhelmed and “at the end of their rope.”

“We surveyed our members, 70 percent actively want to leave the profession. We have nine percent that are experiencing burnout,” Hoad told CP24 on Thursday morning.

“They are tired of working double shifts. They are tired of coming in and having someone call in sick. They work a night shift, they have to stay on a full day shift. It is currently a situation that we cannot continue for much longer,” she added.

MLPAO is a nonprofit health organization with more than 4,000 members throughout the province.

According to a recent survey by the Association of Registered Practical Nurses of Ontario (WeRPN), nearly seven in 10 RPNs said they are unable to provide adequate care to patients due to lack of time and resources.

Additionally, nearly one in two RPNs are considering leaving the profession altogether.

Hoad said lab workers share similar sentiments and are struggling to cope with the high demand for tests needed across the province, including COVID-related tests and other lab work.

“In Ontario, we do 280 million lab tests a year. So COVID is just one part of that. So now, with surgeries resuming, there is an expectation that those lab tests will come in a timely manner,” Hoad said.

He added that more lab workers are needed to fill in the gaps and deliver timely results.

“If we had the right staff, we could get people out of the emergency room much faster. People are moving out of hospitals much faster, but right now we don’t have enough people working in our labs.”

Like nurses, Hoad said laboratory workers are dissatisfied with their wages and are also restricted by the government’s Bill 124, which currently limits public sector wage increases to a maximum of one percent of the full compensation for three years.

Additionally, Hoad said lab workers did not receive the temporary pandemic pay that personal support workers (PSWs) received or a $5,000 retention bonus that was given to eligible nurses.

A person is holding test tubes in this stock photo. (Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels)

“I think the raise we got was one percent. This is really hard for this group,” she said. “So we’re asking (this) group right now to go further and they’re extremely tired.”

There are five training programs in Ontario for lab workers, but Hoad said they all currently have waiting lists.

The association is in talks with the government to find other methods to attract more laboratory professionals.

“We’re looking for internationally educated (workers) to come from outside the country to address the problem, but right now I think the demand is for about 500 medical laboratory technologists,” Hoad said. “That is equivalent to three years of programming. That’s a nine-year fix. We can’t wait nine years, we need something to happen now.”

Hoad said the government needs to create a retention strategy to keep lab workers in the industry, including repealing House Bill 124.

“Forty-four percent of our members are actually eligible to retire in the next two years. Many are retiring early. We don’t want them to go. We have to find ways to keep them in our labs right now.”

Ontario’s executive vice president for health, Dr. Chris Simpson, told CP24 on Wednesday that the burnout experienced by health care workers is a contributing factor to the “crisis” affecting the province’s health system.

Staff shortages have been reported in hospitals across the province in recent months, prompting the temporary closure of emergency rooms and intensive care units.

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