CSMLS Statement Consolidated Medical Labs

Monday, January 6, 2020

CSMLS Statement on Consolidated Medical Labs

Plans to consolidate lab services need to be approached carefully

The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Sciences (CSMLS) cautions that the New Brunswick government’s plan to consolidate 20 hospital labs into as few a seven, could have an impact on the care patients receive.

“The idea that laboratory services can simply be centralized without affecting patient care is false,” says Christine Nielsen, CSMLS CEO. “The work done in medical laboratories is vitally important to guiding the care patients receive. Changes that affect turnaround times or access to testing need to be approached with carefully consideration.”

Centralization is not a new concept and the CSMLS recognizes there are efficiencies to be gained. It is important that planning be done in a thoughtful and consultative manner, where the expertise of laboratory professionals is used to help flag potential impacts to patient care.

“While centralization can help reduce the total number of laboratory professionals required to service the patients in the province and ease the current shortage, it is not as simple a fix as it sounds,” cautions Nielsen. “You have to factor in that the qualified professionals who conduct the tests have homes and lives in different parts of the province currently and maybe forced to relocate to keep their job. Some may not be willing to upend their lives and it is difficult to perfectly predict the net effect.”

Canada is facing a serious shortage of medical laboratory technologists. About half of all MLTs will be eligible to retire in the next ten years. These shortages are already being felt in our rural and remote communities and impending retirements will exacerbate this issue. The current supply of new MLT graduates is not sufficient to offset the projected retirement numbers.

“It’s frustrating to see centralization portrayed as the only option given the health human resource shortage,” says Nielsen. “The looming shortage has been flagged for years with no provincial action to expand educational programming to increase the supply of new laboratory professionals. New Brunswick is not alone in its inaction.”

The CSMLS hopes other provinces will act quickly to invest in the expansion of educational programs to avoid similar situations.