New Interior Health hiring requirements spark furor among lab workers – Okanagan

A new initiative hoped to fill what is being called the urgent need for laboratory staff in the Interior Health region is sparking an uproar among trained laboratory assistants.

New job postings for a laboratory phlebotomist whose primary role is blood collection requires only 10th grade education and one year of relevant experience.

However, the job description is similar to a laboratory assistant role, requiring up to one year of post-secondary education.

In an email to Global News, an Interior Health lab assistant said the new jobs make their training seem outdated.

“This is a major public safety concern and a slap in the face to the frontline lab assistants who have worked so hard that they are now being undermined by Interior Health,” wrote an Interior Health lab assistant who has been granted anonymity by Global News protect their jobs.

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According to Interior Health, the role of the laboratory phlebotomist is new and requires on-the-job training.

“The phlebotomist’s role is solely focused on taking blood or making a puncture. So it’s putting that task together that’s part of a medical lab assistant’s job, and it’s just focused on blood collection,” said Joanne Isber, Interior Health’s corporate program director for pathology and laboratory services.

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“There is a 12-week program that includes theory and eight weeks of practical internships at the hospitals to support their training. And to make sure they are competent in what we expect of them.”

Isber further said that the majority of medical laboratory assistants (MLAs) who progress through the Thompson Rivers University program complete an eight-week internship.

“We also do an eight-week internship with the phlebotomist that focuses only on the venipuncture (taking blood) and the process around it,” Isber said.

“MLAs that come from other programs have a wider scope. You will learn more about the other disciplines of laboratory medicine, understanding microbiology and pathology and transfusion. And we have lab technicians who work in all of these disciplines.”

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Wages between the two positions are also similar. A laboratory phlebotomist lists a starting salary of $24.04 compared to a starting salary of $25.31 for laboratory assistants.

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“The job profile was developed in terms of process and classification standards based on a collective agreement. The organization doesn’t allocate the compensation piece, it does so through collective bargaining,” Isber said.

Interior Health has already hired five phlebotomists and hopes to hire another 11 to 12. This is in addition to the 60 open positions across the region for medical laboratory assistants.

“MLAs are critical to the laboratory program and our healthcare system, so there is no intention to eliminate the collection of them. This phlebotomist role is actually intended to complement the MLA to reduce some of the workload with the high vacancies that we’re seeing,” Isber said.

“This is an opportunity for us to innovate and really ensure we can provide collection services to our patients in both the community and acute care settings.”

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© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc. New Interior Health hiring requirements spark furor among lab workers – Okanagan


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