Lab, x-ray services disrupted in Northwest

by Phil Ambroziak

The Prairie North Regional Health Authority is in need of a few good men, or women.

Due to staffing shortages, laboratory and medical imaging (X-ray) services at the L. Gervais Memorial Health Centre in Goodsoil and the Loon Lake Health Centre have been reduced until further notice. According to Elaine Blais, regional director of laboratory services with the PNRHA, it has been a challenge to recruit the proper number of employees to fill vacant positions in this particular field.

“In the case of Loon Lake, the people we did have moved on to other positions while the person we had in Goodsoil is away on medical leave,” Blais explained. “It’s difficult to recruit and hire combined laboratory and X-ray technicians, not just here, but throughout the province.”

Blais went on to note there is a major shortage of available lab/X-ray technicians, stating it’s a very competitive market.

“Most of them (technicians) want to work in larger urban centres,” she said. “This shortage is not only limited to small communities like Goodsoil and Loon Lake. For many, places such as North Battleford and Lloydminster are also considered rural. Most technicians are looking to work in places like Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton or Calgary.”

Blais said the best option facing the PNRHA right now is to attempt to recruit more technicians when new graduates enter the workforce this spring. In the meantime, a reduced schedule has been introduced to allow for some continued service at the facilities in question.

The current schedule has lab service (for blood collection and ECG procedures only) available in Goodsoil from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and 1-3 p.m. Nov. 27, Dec. 4, Dec. 11, Dec. 18 and Jan. 3, and Nov. 26, Dec. 5, Dec. 12, Dec. 19 and Jan. 3 in Loon Lake. Meanwhile, lab and medical imaging services are available Monday to Friday at the Meadow Lake Hospital, Lloydminster Hospital and St. Walburg Health Complex.

“The impact of this shortage is very significant,” Blais said. “It has an effect on a number of patients. Hopefully this reduced service will, at the very least, help offset the shortage.”

Blais said she is still concerned about the situation, reiterating there is no one currently in the market to fill the void.

“As for patients, I haven’t received any feedback on the reduced service as of yet,”  Blais said. “From people I have been in contact with, however, they realize this is a struggle for us. As long as there is strong communication and they know we are trying to retain these services as best we can, there will be understanding.”

Blais even encourages anyone interested in pursuing a career as a lab or X-ray technician to contact her to learn more about available programming.

“It could put them on the right path to a future career,” she said.

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