2 lab technologists working around the clock at Thompson hospital unsustainable, union warns

Laboratory services at a northern Manitoba hospital are stretched so thin they’re at risk of collapsing, the union representing health care professionals warned Monday. The Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) said the lab at Thompson General Hospital is operating 24/7 with only two technologists, putting patients at risk. “(The) Thompson lab services the largest geographical catchment in Manitoba,” said Jason Linklater, MAHCP president.

“The lab is at risk of shutting down, which means that the hospital and emergency room cannot function as they should.” The union says there should be 10 lab techs at the hospital, and while there was at one time, the number has been in decline for years. The lab was functioning with three workers from April to December 2023, and Linklater says the two who remain are now regularly working 24-hour shifts to keep things running.

“So you work eight hours and then you do the next 16 hours on call, and so in that 16 hours of call, you may get called back to the hospital multiple times … and then your eight-hour day shift starts again,” Linklater said. “They’re sleeping when they can between calls.” The situation, Linklater said, demonstrates the urgent need for the province and Shared Health to recruit and retain health professionals, particularly in the province’s north.

He suggested officials look at hiring incentives and covering moving expenses to attract professionals. “It’s certainly something that government could decide to do today if it was a priority for them,” Linklater said. Among their other duties, lab technologists are responsible for performing diagnostic tests on patients in life-threatening situations, such as heart failure, pregnancy complications, or injuries from accidents.

CTV News has reached out to Shared Health for a response and is waiting for a response.