PEI

Health technologist groups call for more regulation

Certification of medical lab technologists is needed to help avoid a repeat of the breast cancer testing scandal in Newfoundland and Labrador, says the national group representing the workers.

Certification of medical lab technologists is needed to help avoid a repeat of the breast cancer testing scandal in Newfoundland and Labrador, says the national group representing the workers.

The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science says three provinces — Newfoundland and Labrador, B.C. and P.E.I. — do not currently require certification for medical lab technologists, and that needs to change.

Last week, a public inquiry in St. John's released its findings into how almost 400 patients were given incorrect breast cancer test results due to errors at a lab in St. John's.

Kurt Davis, executive director of the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, told CBC News on Friday that certification could help avoid errors.

Of 120 lab workers in P.E.I., only one isn't certified, but Davis worries what could happen as qualified technologists become harder to hire.

"We know that in the next five to seven years, 50 per cent of our workforce is going to be eligible to retire," said Davis.

"We are extremely concerned that employers, when times get desperate, they'll basically hire anybody that walks in the door."

Lobbying for change

Jeannette O'Reilly, president of the P.E.I. Society of Medical Lab Technologists, said the provincial government has denied previous requests to regulate the profession because there are so few employees. O'Reilly hopes to increase the clout of her group by merging with the Nova Scotia society.

"We have a committee in place now, and we're really keen to pursue it," said O'Reilly.

"Public safety is foremost in our mind, so nothing like what happened in Newfoundland happens here."

O'Reilly is hopeful that if the P.E.I. society joins its Nova Scotia counterpart the province would bring in regulations so that only certified lab technologists get hired.