The CUPE Saskatchewan Health Care Council has released a report which indicates that increased workload and understaffing of medical technologists and technicians are putting them under extreme pressure and could compromise patient care. CUPE medical technologists and technicians provide essential services such as preparing medication, providing blood tests, and conducting X-rays, CT and MRI scans, and other diagnostic tests.

The report, titled Under Pressure: Report on the Workload of CUPE Medical Technologists and Technicians in Saskatchewan, is based on an intensive online survey of CUPE members who work as medical technologists and technicians.

“Medical technologists and technicians play a critical role in our health care system. Doctors often cannot diagnose or treat patients without timely – sometimes immediate – results from medical technologists and technicians,” said Holley Hermann, chair of the CUPE Medical Technologists and Technicians Committee and a medical laboratory technologist in the Sun Country Health Region. “Increased workload means that medical techs cannot complete all their work on shift, which pushes us to work through scheduled breaks, come to work early, or leave late. This can lead to delays in patient diagnosis, errors, and staff burnout.”

With health care restructuring and budget cuts, there is much uncertainty about the future of provincial lab services. The province has appointed a working group to study changes to provincial lab services. 

“This is about patient care. Understaffing and crushing workloads jeopardize patient care and the government’s goal of “patient first.” If medical techs cannot deliver test results to doctors in a timely manner, patient care suffers,” said Sandra Seitz, president of the CUPE Saskatchewan Health Care Council. “When medical techs are working long hours and under intense pressure, there is a greater chance of making mistakes, which jeopardizes patient care.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents 874 medical technologists and technicians in five health regions in Saskatchewan: Prince Albert Parkland, Prairie North, Regina Qu’Appelle, Sun Country, and Sunrise. Over 20 per cent of members in these classifications participated in the report.