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Lab techs, X-ray techs and other hospital workers say 'We matter, too"

They're not doctors or nurses, but the medical professionals who run blood tests, perform X-rays and run other essential services in hospitals say they also need to be recognized for the work they do and the harm they put themselves in by coming to work during a pandemic.

About 1,400 medical professionals who aren't doctors or nurses work at LHSC and St. Joe's

Opseu Local 106 President Steve McCaw and Vice President Sandi Blancher and about 1,400 hospital workers in London, Ont., say they have been forgotten as essential workers during the pandemic. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

They're not doctors or nurses, but the medical professionals who run blood tests, perform X-rays and run other essential services in hospitals say they also need to be recognized for the work they do and the harm they put themselves in by coming to work during a pandemic. 

"The allied health care professionals that we represent in our union were left out, perhaps innocently, by the government for the pandemic pay, and we don't care as much about the pay as the recognition," said Steve McCaw, the president of OPSEU Local 106.

The union represents 1,400 hospital professionals, such as medical radiation technologists, lab workers and respiratory therapists, among many other groups. 

"We're part of the team. It's not just doctors and nurses. We need them, they need us, and we are an ingrained in the team at the hospital," said McCaw. 

The union ran a province-wide day of action on Wednesday, with the hashtag #WeMatterToo on social media. 

The hospital professions division has 25,000 members, with 250 professions, from those who do diagnostic imaging, such as ultrasound and X-rays, to biomedical engineering technologists, pharmacy technicians, social workers, recreational therapists and many others. 

"We do the things we've always done: taking care of patients, but it's been escalated obviously during this pandemic," McCaw said.

"People are feeling proud that they're contributing, but they're also scared to get the virus themselves and to spread it to their families and loved ones." 

Some members of OPSEU Local 106 in London, Ont., spent their lunch breaks rallying together and reminding the public that they, too, are essential workers. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Jordan McTavish is a respiratory therapist at Victoria Hospital, where the lack of protective gear has been an issue. 

"We were down to two masks per shift, now we're back up to four," McTavish said. "Masks have definitely been an issue." 

Many medical professions took issue with a list of essential workers released in April by the province. Those workers got a temporary pay bump during the pandemic, but the list didn't include a number of front-line staff, including paramedics. 

The province eventually expanded the list to paramedics, respiratory therapists and public health nurses, but others remain left off the list.

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