Medical Laboratory Professionals call on Canadian Government to Protect Patient Safety

    OTTAWA, April 23 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's medical laboratory professionals
met with Members of Parliament today to discuss issues that directly impact
patient safety in medical laboratories.
    "We are concerned that human resource shortages and interprovincial
labour mobility are overshadowing the need to maintain high standards of
practice for health care professionals," says CSMLS President Shelby
Giesbrecht. "As a result, there is pressure to lower standards for health care
professionals, including medical laboratory technologists."
    The meetings come at a crucial time, as recommendations from the report
of the Commission of Inquiry on Hormone Receptor Testing in Newfoundland and
Labrador (the Cameron Report) and the report on the Commission of Inquiry into
Pathology Services in New Brunswick (the Creaghan Report), focus attention on
the critical role that medical laboratory professionals play in patient
    Of specific concern are revisions to the Agreement on Internal Trade,
which came into effect on April 1, 2009, that call the future of national
certification for medical laboratory technologists into question. "As we
understand it, regulatory bodies across Canada that currently require national
certification of medical laboratory technologists may be prevented from doing
so in the future," says Ms. Giesbrecht.
    National certification, which has been in place since 1937, helps ensure
that medical laboratory technologists are competent to practise safely and
effectively. "We believe that eroding the requirement for national
certification will lower standards and compromise patient safety. Justice
Cameron's report was very clear that addressing human resource shortages must
not come at the expense of lowering standards," says Ms. Giesbrecht.
    CSMLS is also urging provincial governments to regulate medical
laboratory assistants who perform important pre-analytical procedures, such as
collecting blood samples. Medical laboratory assistants can obtain national
certification from the CSMLS. The certification, however, is voluntary as
medical laboratory assistants are not regulated in any Canadian province or
territory at this time.
    In 2001, CSMLS issued a report that predicted that over half of Canada's
medical laboratory technologists would be eligible to retire by the year 2016.
Since that time, provincial and federal governments have taken steps to
address the shortage of medical laboratory technologists. Existing education
programs were expanded and new programs opened. Data collection for the
Canadian Institute for Health Information's human resource database for
medical laboratory technologists is nearing completion. Once established, the
database will provide a solid foundation for human resource planning.
    "We are pleased at the progress that has been made but at the same time,
we recognize that there is still much more to be done. We are calling on
provincial and federal governments to pick up the pace on implementing the
action plan proposed in the Framework for Collaborative Pan-Canadian Health
Human Resources Planning," says Ms. Giesbrecht. The framework was developed by
the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Advisory Committee on Health Delivery and
Human Resources in 2005.
    CSMLS is urging governments to invest in clinical education, integration
of internationally educated health care professionals, quality of work life
initiatives and recruitment into health care professions- all of which are
addressed in the action plan.
    "Canadians have a right to expect that the people who conduct their
laboratory tests are qualified and competent. After all, up to 85 per cent of
decisions about diagnosis and treatment are based on the results of laboratory
tests," says Ms. Giesbrecht. "Working together with governments, regulatory
bodies and employers, we are confident that we can implement human resource
strategies that do not sacrifice the high standards of practice for medical
laboratory professionals that Canadian have come to expect."

    CSMLS is the national certifying body for medical laboratory
technologists and medical laboratory assistants and the national professional
society for Canada's medical laboratory professionals. The society has over
14,000 members.

For further information:

For further information: Kurt Davis, Executive Director, Cell: (289)
440-2361,; Alana Fontaine, Cell: (613) 299-4017,

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Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science

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