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Nova Scotia’s plan to train new lab techs greeted with cautious optimism


Halifax, NS — March 21, 2003 — The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) and the Nova Scotia Society of Medical Laboratory Technologists (NSSMLT) are expressing cautious optimism over the Nova Scotia government’s plan to address a serious shortage of medical laboratory technologists.

As part of a plan for better health care that was released yesterday by Health Minister Jane Purves, the government is taking immediate steps so patients receive critical tests and treatments more quickly. In 2003-04, C$5 million will be spent to shorten wait lists for cardiac tests and surgeries. As well, $45 million will be invested over the next three years to purchase diagnostic, surgical and other medical equipment.

Plans to train, recruit and retain hundreds more health professionals, including nurses, doctors and medical lab technologists, will also support patient care and shorten wait lists. As well, an additional $124 million has been guaranteed to hospitals over the next three years to support this effort.

The province will fund an additional 22 training positions for medical laboratory technologists at the New Brunswick Community College – currently three positions are funded. Students will complete their clinical training in laboratories in Nova Scotia. The government will also provide an $8,000 bursary to students who pledge to return to work in Nova Scotia for at least two years.

“This is a good first step,” says Brenda Soutar, NSSMLT president. “We are particularly encouraged by the fact that Minister Purves has committed to long-term strategies, including the development of a training program in Nova Scotia.”

The announcement did not provide information about funding for the clinical phase of the students’ training. “Financial support for clinical training is absolutely critical,” says CSMLS executive director, Kurt Davis. “Hospital laboratories are already experiencing staffing shortages. They will require additional resources to enable them to train the new students,” he says.

Nova Scotia is facing a shortage of medical laboratory technologists – highly skilled health care professionals who conduct laboratory tests on blood, body fluids and body tissues. CSMLS data indicate that 110 of Nova Scotia’s 837 MLTs will be eligible to retire by 2006; by 2016, 502 or 60% of the total MLT workforce will have reached retirement age.

CSMLS is the national certifying body for medical laboratory technologists and a voluntary professional association for medical laboratory professionals – Canada’s third largest group of health care providers. NSSMLT is the voluntary professional society for medical laboratory technologists in Nova Scotia. They have been awaiting final approval of their status as the regulatory body for the profession in Nova Scotia since March 2000.