National Medical Laboratory Week 2022


11 April 2022

This week is National Medical Laboratory Week, a campaign that spotlights the dedicated and highly skilled medical laboratory professionals who play a vital role in public health and patient care. Every year Public Health Ontario (PHO) takes the opportunity to celebrate our medical laboratory professionals as well as those across Ontario for the critical part they play in research, surveillance and improving patient care.

Medical laboratory professionals are key to the maintenance of public health and the prevention of disease, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this more apparent than ever. These individuals uncover and provide critical information from laboratory analyses that support physicians in patient diagnosis and treatment, as well as monitor and prevent diseases of public health significance.

PHO’s laboratory team

PHO operates one of the largest public health laboratory systems in the world. Across 11 locations and with 272 tests available, PHO’s laboratory team analyses approximately 10,000 specimens per day totalling 5.5 million tests per year. In addition to our regular laboratory responsibilities, this capacity greatly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 5 million COVID-19 diagnostic PCR tests completed and more than 67,000 COVID-19 specimens tested via next generation sequencing.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, PHO’s laboratory professionals have banded together more than ever before to ensure swift and thorough COVID-19 response across Ontario. PHO’s laboratory staff have been leaders in laboratory testing. In early January 2020, PHO was among the first in Canada to develop a COVID-19 diagnostic test and performed the first test for COVID-19 in the province. We also enhanced testing capacity by reducing the time required to test submitted samples, and increasing the number of tests we could perform each day.

Working closely with Ontario Health and our health system partners, PHO helped to establish the COVID-19 Provincial Diagnostic Network. This network is comprised of more than 40 independent, hospital, public health and community laboratories that work to efficiently coordinate, process and analyse COVID-19 tests. PHO also leads the Ontario COVID-19 Genomics Network (OCGN), which includes the laboratories at PHO, Sick Kids, Kingston General Hospital, Shared Labs and Hamilton Health Sciences. This network coordinates the processing and analysis of COVID-19 tests, enabling specimens to be efficiently routed to laboratories that have testing capacity so they can be analysed as quickly as possible.

It is the tireless efforts of PHO’s laboratory team, and those of our partners, that allows us to provide reliable services to clinicians in primary care, hospitals, and public health units across the province to safeguard the health on all Ontarians.

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Published 11 April 2022