WHEREAS all disciplines of healthcare in Alberta are experiencing shortages of qualified professionals and rural areas are experiencing even greater shortages than urban sites; and
WHEREAS rural healthcare facilities require a wider, multi-discipline skill set known as Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologist (CLXT) than those that are required in conventional urban settings; and
WHEREAS CLXT skill sets are mandatory for rural healthcare locations, and inadequate numbers of students are being trained at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) to meet the need in rural Alberta; and
WHEREAS NAIT is the only institution offering this training in Alberta, with a capacity of forty students per year and has indicated that they have the capacity within their infrastructure to increase by an additional twenty students if they have the clinical sites to support student training and/or a viable option of simulation training that will allow for the increase in students; and
WHEREAS NAIT has also advised that they are committed to exploring ways to increase their CLXT intake; and
WHEREAS the Alberta 2030 vision is focused on the post-secondary system and being highly responsive to labour market needs;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to immediately expand the number of seats available to train Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologist (CLXT) for rural Alberta by increasing the number of seats for CLXT training at NAIT by twenty seats and explore means by which an additional twenty seat capacity can be created at NAIT or another Alberta Institution.
The Alberta landscape is dotted with many small rural hospitals. Although small, they are mighty, and provide an essential service to all Albertans. Often remote, these facilities offer a buffer between injury and sickness and the chronically overcrowded big city emergency rooms. Many rural hospitals offer minor surgeries, obstetrics, pre and post operative care, palliative, and long-term care, all helping to take the pressure off the city hospitals. While allowing this also allows local citizens to receive quality health care close to home and family.
One discipline of particular serious concern is the combined Lab and X-ray Laboratory and X-Ray Technologist (CLXT). This part of our hospital’s team is vital in assisting with efficient diagnosis and treatment; and is essential to keeping a rural emergency room open. These combined skills are specific and mandatory to rural hospitals, and staff shortages in this discipline are apparent across the province. Rural hospitals are often limited to the number of staff they can hire due to budgetary constraints and therefore in many cases cannot afford to hire both a position for lab and for x-ray as separate personnel. The combined CLXT provides a cost-effective way to fill multiple positions with a single staff member.
The Government of Alberta Health Services website includes the following statement:
“Combined laboratory and x-ray technologists play a critically important role in the diagnosis, disease prevention and public health surveillance. They are responsible for collecting, preparing and analyzing patient samples, providing general patient care and taking blood. They conduct medical laboratory tests and administer electrocardiograms. They are also responsible for general radiography exams (X-ray). Combined laboratory and x-ray technologists are responsible to perform site specific manual and automated approved laboratory procedures, diagnostic imaging exams and related duties, following established standards and practices defined by the ACCLXT (Alberta College of Combined Laboratory and X-ray Technicians), CPSA (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta) and HPA (Health Professions Act).”
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is the only institution providing this specialized program offering forty (40) seats annually. Increasing those seat numbers, from forty to eighty would significantly address the current demand in rural Alberta. NAIT currently has twenty new seats and thereafter increasing NAIT’s capacity and/or adding another institution with capability to offer this training may be enough to meet current demand. Currently NAIT receives 500 applications for the program, interviewing 200 people for each intake of the 40 seats. This demonstrates that the demand for the current program is very high and filling additional seats would not be an issue.
Access to health facilities and trained health care professionals in our rural areas is essential to the sustainability and economic growth of our province as a whole. Skill specific training, in adequate numbers, is necessary to foster growth and sustainability in rural Alberta. The request for the Government of Alberta to fund additional post-secondary seats for CLXT training aligns well with the already developed Alberta 2030 vision:
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Advanced Education
Thank you for your letter regarding RMA Resolution 2-22-F, Laboratory and X-Ray Technologists Training for Rural Healthcare. I appreciate the opportunity to respond.
The challenges facing our healthcare system mean Albertans are not getting the necessary care they need when and where they need it. In Budget 2022, we announced the Alberta at Work initiative to help individuals develop new skills, attract talent to the province, and encourage all Albertans to participate in the labour market.
Advanced Education plays a key role in Alberta at Work, especially through the Targeted Enrolment Expansion program which invests in new seats in high-demand program areas like the one mentioned in Resolution 2-22-F. I am pleased to report that the province has funded the expansion of healthcare professional programs by almost 2,300 seats in this and future years. This expansion includes creating new seats in critically understaffed healthcare professions, such as nurses, medical laboratory professionals, paramedics, and health care aides.
My mandate letter from Premier Smith directs me to further expand on the Targeted Enrolment Expansion program to increase spaces in high demand programs in economic and medical fields of study.
Advanced Education has yet to receive a proposal involving the expansion of the existing program or the creation of new programs related to Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologist programs. My department would be happy to review any such proposal and will indicate to Alberta’s post-secondary institutions that further proposals related to the expansion of programs in the medical field are encouraged.
Alberta Health Services
Thank you for your letter of November 29, 2022 outlining some of the recent Resolutions from the RMA’s Fall Session.
I appreciate you sharing the concerns that many of your members have regarding the provision of health services. Alberta Health Services strives to ensure that all Albertans have access to high quality health care in a timely fashion.
The Resolutions in question however fall more within the realm of government policy direction in Health and Advanced Education. I understand that these resolutions have also been provided to the Government of Alberta and I anticipate that they will respond to you directly.
RMA is pleased to hear that additional funding has been allocated to the programs such as nurses and laboratory professionals. However RMA would like more information on how these seats are being allocated to each program and to what extent they are expanding these for rural Alberta.
Further, Alberta Advanced Education’s responses indicates that they have not yet received a proposal for the Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologist programs. RMA would like to see Alberta Advanced Education collaborate with NAIT and other relevant expert stakeholders on how to expand this.
As a result, RMA assigns this a status Intent Not Met.