Seventy-five LifeLabs employees who work as lab technologists, technicians, assistants, phlebotomists (blood collectors), and support staff in north Simcoe County have voted to join the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). They work out of 11 locations, including Barrie, Orillia, Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Stayner, and CFB Borden.
"During our organizing drive, it became clear that these employees have had enough of being underpaid," said Sean Allen, chair of OPSEU's Canadian Blood Services and Diagnostics Division. "They were also unhappy with poor working conditions and the way management lacked respect for their qualifications or appreciation for their contributions to the success of the company."
Allen said that workers had met resistance from management around organizing. This group of LifeLabs professionals is the first in Ontario to be unionized.
McMaster University chemistry researchers have developed a new screening technique that promises to more quickly and accurately test for drugs.
A paper outlining the technique is published in the latest copy of Analytical Chemistry.
The hope is this could become commonplace for medical professionals screening patients for drug use. For instance, patients at pain management clinics or psychiatric patients could be quickly tested to see if they're taking their prescribed medication and also if they're self-medicating with other drugs.
Right now, when medical professionals want to test for drugs in someone's system, the first step is usually a urine immunoassay test, which involves testing for antibodies. But the problem is these tests are not entirely reliable and can only test for specific known drugs. For instance, it can detect the presence of opioids, but does not define whether that's heroin or fentanyl. Secondary tests done in a lab are more accurate, but take longer and again can only test for targeted drugs.
The patented technique — multi-segment injection-capillary electrophoresis-mass spectrometry — uses a mass spectrometer to separate ions. The separation reveals any number of drugs.
I would like to tell you a story about a boy, a hero of mine.
Harvey Buster Baldwin was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia aged six and spent many weeks in Worthing hospital, where I worked as a biomedical scientist. As an inquisitive six-year-old he asked questions about his blood. We arranged for Harvey to visit the pathology laboratory to try and answer some of his questions. I took Harvey around the lab, showing him all the specialist equipment we use, and we looked down the microscope to see his own red cells, platelets and white cells. Harvey went away with all the answers to the questions he had been asking, and I felt like I had made a difference to this young man’s life. Over the next 18 months Harvey fought a massive battle with leukaemia. He had help from biomedical scientists, teams of doctors, paediatric nurses and play specialists in the laboratories and Worthing and Royal Marsden hospitals. He also had some bone marrow donated from his brother. Harvey lost his battle aged eight.
I was later told that six other children could benefit from a tour around the lab, to help them understand more about their samples and to empower them with knowledge. This is how Harvey’s Gang began. As scientists, we reflect; what went well, what didn’t and what can we do better. I took this on board when I was thinking about how I could adapt the idea and take it forward. We named it Harvey’s Gang after Harvey. We looked at getting a white laboratory coat that would fit children, a certificate of attendance, an ID badge and a goody bag filled with useful things. A colleague of mine made our first white coat for a child from a threadbare NHS white sheet. We designed a logo and I arranged for the trust’s security department to produce ID badges. I raised the idea of goody bags with the ortho clinical diagnostics department and I shared our story with them. We named our new blood grouping analyser, Harvey. I designed our certificates of attendance, so that children and young people, as well as their parents or guardians, had a reminder of a happy day in hospital.
Read more about Harvey's Gang by clicking on the article title above.