Interior Health is adding an extra incentive to its hiring process in an effort to fill an “urgent” need for medical lab technologists in the Southern interior.
The health authority is offering a $10,000 signing bonus to medical lab techs to join hospital teams across the southern Interior region, according to a job posting originally posted last April.
IH is looking to fill multiple permanent, full-time positions in both rural and urban locations, and says it can offer relocation assistance, as well as B.C. student loan forgiveness in some locations.
Vernon Coun. Teresa Durning was pleased to hear about the recruitment strategy but says it’s a sign of the dire shortage of lab techs in the region, which she recently experienced first-hand.
Durning recently had to wait in line for more than two hours to have blood work done at Valley Medical Labs at Vernon’s Railway Plaza.
While that particular lab is not affiliated with Interior Health, Durning says the lineups indicate that all labs in town are currently overflowing with patients.
“There have been people standing outside there since wintertime,” she said. “My big issue is our seniors or our compromised individuals should not have to be standing outside because of the overflow that our health care system can’t process.”
Things are no better at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, where Durning says wait lists can be up to two months long. While waiting at the Railway lab, she spoke to a woman in line who told her she’d waited two hours at the hospital before being turned away at closing time.
Two North Okanagan medical labs — Valley Medical Laboratories in Lumby and the IH-run Sterling Centre Outpatient Lab — closed due to staff shortages late last year, though both closures were said to be temporary.
Medical lab techs are the professionals who process blood work or tests, but they’re not the only workers involved in the process. Durning questions whether the need for more lab techs is accompanied by a need for other frontline positions at laboratories as well.
Durning commended the province for “putting their money where their mouth is” with regards to the signing bonus, a decision that signalled to her that they are taking the issue seriously.
The lab tech shortage is just one component of “a whole system that is broken,” she said, and answers are hard to come by. She’s had conversations about the issue with Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu, who Durning says is “battling as hard as she can” to find answers in Victoria.
“I’ll continue to advocate until I don’t see people standing outside waiting for blood work in Vernon,” Durning said.