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CLSI and CLSA Appeal to Governor to Relax MLT Certifications to Increase COVID-19 Testing

In collaboration with the California Community College Statewide Director for Biotech/Life Sciences and the statewide Medical Laboratory Technician(MLT) Program Directors, CLSA’s Mike Guerra and CLSI’s Lori Lindburg, penned the following letter asking Governor Newsom to suspend certain MLT certifications to enable these qualified new professionals to help address the state’s overwhelming demand for COVID-19 testing.

According to Patrick Henning, CLSA’s Senior Vice President for Government Relations & Public Affairs, who continues to monitor the situation closely, the Governor’s Office has indicated that it is grateful that we have raised the issue and will get back to it soon. It is our hope that this will move forward, creating a win-win for California’s MLT students and citizens. For more information, please contact Lori Lindburg: lori@califesciences.org

Dear Governor Newsom:

Thank you for your leadership during these incredibly challenging times. You have shown tremendous innovative thinking to tackle the obstacles of a global pandemic.  This rings particularly true with your vision to create the California Health Corp., as witnessed by the resounding number of people who applied and responded to the urgent call to action in a very short period of time!

This new initiative allowed the state to suspend certain certification or licensing requirements during the emergency. As part of your recovery and resilience plan for California, we ask that you consider broadening this action to cover Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) students. This would enable these new professionals to apply their clinical and didactic training to join the workforce to help meet the current overwhelming demand for Covid-19 testing, and to get them to the front lines in the continued fight against this and other pandemics.

An integral part of the COVID-19 solution centers around laboratory testing. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of all diagnosis come from laboratory and imaging testing. However, our clinical laboratories, already in dire need of staff, will be overwhelmed should the hospital systems become overrun. There simply are not enough statewide staff to ensure clinical laboratories can manage the increased demand. It has been shown that delays in testing lead to poor patient outcomes, and that the inability to overcome the current laboratory staffing shortages could have dire implications as our hospital systems grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As you have called upon doctor and nursing students to help in the fight against COVID-19, so too should clinical laboratory students be called to action. While COVID-19 testing will be a large part of their scope of practice, laboratory workers still have to play a crucial role in non-COVID-19 diagnosis and trauma that occur. Hence there is a critical need to ensure clinical laboratory educators are given the maximum flexibility to choose the pedagogic approach to completing clinical course objectives through both a simulated and practicum environment that will ensure that clinical laboratory students can graduate and join the workforce in 2020.

This article highlights lab workers as unseen warriors fighting the coronavirus: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/lab-workers-unseen-warriors-fighting-coronavirus/story?id=69962475 .

The root cause preventing spring 2020 graduation has three main components:

  1. COVID-19 quarantine and suspended clinical rotations compounding too few pre-quarantine clinical spots;
  2. Simulated laboratories currently do not count toward practicum hours in CA;
  3. CA clinical hour standards are above national averages with no additional observed efficacy.

We are urgently asking for the following waivers to enable clinical laboratory students to graduate on schedule and accommodate the dire need for clinical laboratory staff:

  1. Allowance & specification of the following in Codes 1260.3(a)(1) & 1261.5: modified clinical rotation plan that accepts augmented clinical training (simulated laboratories) for CA licensing hours.
  2. Pursuant to CCR 1035.3(b)(2), a formal declaration that a minimum of 80 practicum training hours be required in each department: chemistry, blood bank, microbiology, & hematology. In addition, a reduction from 1040 to 840 total program hours.

We thank you for consideration of this request to allow clinical science students to graduate on schedule and help fill the critical need for clinical laboratory staff to serve COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 needs.

If you needed more information, please don’t hesitate to contact Lori Lindburg at (650) 871-3253 or Patrick Henning at (916) 806-0788.

In gratitude,

Michael Guerra                                                                            Lori Lindburg

President & CEO                                                                        President & CEO

CLSA                                                                                                   CLSI