NEW YORK – The American Association for Clinical Chemistry is calling on Congress to provide funding for clinical laboratory training programs.
In a position statement issued on Thursday, AACC said that such funding will "ensure that labs have the staffing they need to deliver timely, accurate test results, particularly during public health emergencies such as the current coronavirus pandemic."
The association said that the number of sites performing clinical lab testing in the US has risen to 266,000 in 2020 from 154,000 in 1993, with about 13 billion tests run each year. While technological advances have simplified some testing procedures, the advent of technologies such as molecular testing and mass spectrometry has required specialized knowledge and training.
"Unfortunately, there is a shortage of well-trained individuals to perform these tests," AACC said in its position statement, noting that according to statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 72,100 additional clinical lab personnel will be needed by 2028 to meet the growing demand for testing services.
While demand is expected to grow, the number of medical laboratory scientist (MLS) programs has declined to 608 currently from 720 in 1990, AACC said.
To address this, the association asks Congress to restore federal funding for MLS programs and to provide funding to hospitals and reference labs that provide clinical testing rotations to students from the programs. Congress should also create a loan forgiveness program for clinical lab professionals who will work in underserved areas for a determined period of time.
"The coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on how crucial high-quality testing is to patient care and public health," AACC President David Grenache said in a statement. "We at AACC strongly encourage Congress to restore funding for these programs so that labs can build up the capacity they need to continue to support the country's response to public health crises such as COVID-19."