Med­i­cal lab staff also de­serve essen­tial worker pre­mium pay

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Opinion - SAN­DRA SAN­FORD San­dra San­ford is a med­i­cal lab tech­ni­cian in Oakville.

With the an­nounce­ment by Premier Doug Ford about a Pan­demic Pay Pre­mium on April 24 came a can of worms about who will be re­ceiv­ing the $4-per­hour pre­mium as an acute hospi­tal worker.

The ini­tial an­nounce­ment listed all the pos­si­ble nurs­ing jobs (RN, RNA, RPN, etc.), PSWs/at­ten­dant care work­ers and aux­il­iary staff in­clud­ing porters, cooks, cus­to­dian, house­keep­ing, laun­dry and other key work­ers as those get­ting this pre­mium. I as­sumed that the med­i­cal lab tech­nol­o­gist, which I am, and tech­ni­cians were lumped into the “other key work­ers” cat­e­gory.

Then on April 29 the list of el­i­gi­ble work­ers was “ex­panded” to in­clude EMTs and res­pi­ra­tory tech­nol­o­gists. This was done be­cause their reg­u­la­tory bod­ies and work­ers com­plained to the premier’s of­fice about not be­ing listed specif­i­cally. Does this mean if my job ti­tle is not specif­i­cally listed I will not get the pre­mium?

This up­set me be­cause as an MLT we do the test­ing that di­ag­noses COVID-19, along with many other dis­eases. It is said that 70 per cent of all med­i­cal de­ci­sions a doc­tor makes are based on test re­sults that a lab­o­ra­tory gives them. This in­cludes ev­ery­thing from the di­ag­nos­tic tests re­quired to di­ag­nose ill­nesses to mon­i­tor­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of treat­ment plans. And yet my job is not con­sid­ered “essen­tial?”

At my hospi­tal we have pur­chased a new an­a­lyzer and val­i­dated it, along with an­other pre-ex­ist­ing an­a­lyzer, to be able to per­form in-house COVID-19 test­ing. This has en­abled us to per­form over 13,100 tests in house and as­sist in di­ag­nos­ing over 1,000 pa­tients with COVID-19. And yet my job is not con­sid­ered “essen­tial?”

It is also equally up­set­ting be­cause last week of April 26 to May 2 hap­pens to be Na­tional Med­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory Week. We have re­ceived procla­ma­tions from

Mayor John Tory (Toronto) and Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, as seen be­low:

“To­day, I join Cana­di­ans to mark the be­gin­ning of Na­tional Med­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory Week, and cel­e­brate the in­valu­able and life-sav­ing con­tri­bu­tions of our coun­try’s ded­i­cated med­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory pro­fes­sion­als.

“As they work hard to pro­vide timely, re­li­able test re­sults for COVID-19, Canada’s lab­o­ra­tory pro­fes­sion­als have demon­strated their im­por­tance as core mem­bers of our health care team.

“Dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time, their work is more im­por­tant than ever. Lab­o­ra­tory pro­fes­sion­als across Canada have been work­ing day and night to process COVID-19 tests, while find­ing in­no­va­tive ways to speed up the process. Work­ing to­gether with health care pro­fes­sion­als, they play a key role in help­ing to iden­tify cases of COVID-19 so we can stop its spread.

“While we rely on the hard work of our lab­o­ra­tory and health care pro­fes­sion­als, we all must do our part by fol­low­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions of pub­lic health ex­perts and stay­ing at home. We will get through this to­gether.

“On be­half of the Govern­ment of Canada, I en­cour­age all Cana­di­ans to join me to thank the many lab­o­ra­tory pro­fes­sion­als on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Their pro­fes­sion­al­ism, ex­per­tise, and ded­i­ca­tion is help­ing to keep our loved ones, our health care pro­fes­sion­als, and our com­mu­ni­ties safe.”

Are we, as med­i­cal lab tech­nol­o­gists, med­i­cal lab tech­ni­cians, and pa­tient care tech­ni­cians now re­duced to beg­ging in the news and so­cial me­dia to be rec­og­nized as “essen­tial?” I guess so!

So here it is: Premier Doug Ford, you need to add all lab per­son­nel to the Pan­demic Pre­mium Pay Essen­tial work­ers list. With­out us, the doctors are only guess­ing.

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