The future of labs


UPCOMING EVENT | May 6 | A day to focus on the future of labs

The future of public-system medical labs will be the focus of attention on May 6, as partners from many different horizons come together for a provincial-level day of reflection organized by the APTS. The theme of this focus day will be Moving forward for the future of our labs.

Our goal is to bring health and social service actors and partners together so that we can look at the problems facing medical labs, start thinking about them collectively, and find concrete solutions that will ensure the future of these services.

An overall vision leading to concrete solutions

The focus day is intended as a sequel to the APTS tour of Québec labs that took place from summer 2022 to summer 2023. The APTS believes we now need to bring actors from all horizons together to agree on innovative solutions for labs.

Representatives of APTS lab personnel will be joined by representatives of medical federations and associations, CEGEPs, groups representing service users, professional orders, unions, and other partners. Together, we will discuss issues such as the labour shortage, the impacts of centralization, and the accessibility of services provided to Quebecers. In order to think collectively about the future of lab services, we need to explore problems from every angle as we ask how to highlight the value of our professions, how to improve the organization of work, and how to reduce our administrative burden.


OPTILAB and labs: what you need to know

Who are the employees represented by the APTS, and how is union representation organized under the OPTILAB system?

The APTS represents over 95% of Class 4 employees (professional and technical employees in the health and social services system). In laboratories, these employees are distributed among 16 job titles; most of them are graduates of medical laboratory technology programs (DEC TAB).

We represent 11 out of 12 OPTILAB lab clusters, the Montréal – CHU Sainte-Justine cluster being the only one not represented by the APTS.

Some lab clusters cover more than one region. For this reason, to ensure union certification, the APTS had to create extra-territorial lab groups in order to represent Class 4 employees who work for a given lab cluster and are employed by an institution that is part of the cluster, but that is not located in their region. The APTS represents five extra-territorial lab groups: Gaspésie, Côte-Nord, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Lanaudière, Laurentides

How did the APTS develop its position in relation to OPTILAB?

The OPTILAB project was officially launched in September 2016, but the government had been working on it since 2011. The APTS has been speaking on behalf of its members since 2011, expressing their concerns and asking to be included in discussions.

Faced with the Ministry’s lack of transparency, the APTS continuously monitored the situation by staying in close contact with its local teams and members on the ground. This enabled us to understand how the OPTILAB system was perceived and announced, and to have a better grasp of emerging problems and potential risks.

As soon as OPTILAB was launched in 2016, and systematically from then on, the APTS multiplied actions and meetings with the MSSS and other concerned parties, sharply criticizing the project’s negative impacts and expressing many concerns. The APTS always reached out to the MSSS to be part of the solution.

Seeing its members’ conditions of work and practice deteriorate, the APTS began a tour of labs in 2022 to get a sense of what was happening in all of the labs it represents. This led to an increase in public denunciations, since it was now apparent that a number of the potential risks initially identified by the APTS were materializing.

As the OPTILAB rollout accelerated in 2023, it became clear that it was having negative impacts on Quebecers in concrete terms. A number of other parties, including several medical associations, were impelled to speak out and join their voices with ours.

The APTS took advantage of this momentum to reiterate its solutions. Among other things, we contributed to a day-long consultation on labs organized by the MSSS on April 28, 2023, and we sent our brief on OPTILAB and the future of labs to the MSSS and all of the participants in that event.

Throughout its 2022 tour, the APTS was made aware of what APTS members had seen in labs across Québec. This led to our decision to organize a focus day on the future of labs in order to continue our exchanges with partners from different horizons. The focus day will take place on May 6, 2024, at the Québec City convention centre, with the theme Moving ahead for the future of laboratories.

What are the APTS’s objectives for laboratories?

  • Reduce the negative effects of the OPTILAB rollout on APTS members and Quebecers
  • Suggest concrete solutions to counteract the labour shortage and reduce work overload
  • Give Quebecers and APTS members working in other settings a better understanding of the work done by Class 4 personnel in labs, and highlight the value of their contribution

What is the APTS position regarding various job titles performing acts normally belonging to biomedical laboratory technology graduates?

The APTS believes that asking other job titles – including Class B technicians – to perform acts belonging to biomedical laboratory technology graduates is unworkable and unsustainable in the long term. This practice devalues the profession and may threaten its future, and puts Quebecers at risk by reducing the quality of the acts being performed.

The APTS is convinced that every profession has its place, but that they are complementary rather than interchangeable. For this reason, we are calling on the MSSS and on directors of OPTILAB clusters to be extremely cautious with regard to such practices, and to establish a clear list of tasks assigned to different job titles in laboratories.

What solutions is the APTS putting forward?

Full details of the various solutions put forward by the APTS are provided in the brief we submitted after the day-long consultation organized by the MSSS on April 28, 2023.

Read the brief (in French)

Attracting and retaining Class 4 personnel

  • Make positions in partner labs more attractive by keeping a variety of tasks requiring the expertise of biomedical laboratory technology graduates in these labs. (One way of doing this would be to send a larger number of requests for analysis to partner labs).
  • Encourage agreements for work-time arrangements by authorizing such things as deferred pay leave and leave without pay.
  • Reduce work overload by measures such as maintaining sufficient qualified personnel to ensure that labs can function and that existing personnel can be replaced.
  • At the workforce planning stage, incorporate the idea that people will be released from their usual tasks to take on the responsibility of training and supervising trainees.
  • Take measures to attract and retain biomedical laboratory technology graduates. Among other things, bursary programs must be modified to these graduates (DEC TAB).
  • Acknowledge the importance of technical medical departments as part of the health care reform plan (Plan Santé) and Bill 15.


  • Make positions in partner labs more attractive by keeping a variety of tasks requiring the expertise of biomedical laboratory technology graduates in these labs. (One way of doing this would be to send a larger number of requests for analysis to partner labs).
  • Ask the management of each cluster (or the MSSS) to provide concrete evidence, supported by figures, that transferring each type of analysis to the hub lab does lead to efficiency gains. If this is not the case, send the analysis back to partner labs (or keep it there).
  • Draw up detailed contingency plans for the labs of each cluster to provide a concrete and realistic alternative in case the hub lab is overwhelmed or there is a service break.

Moratorium on any new construction related to the OPTILAB project

Establish a moratorium on any new construction related to OPTILAB until the following conditions are met:

  • Centralization has been shown to provide financial and efficiency gains.
  • Before any analyses are transferred, the conditions that were set out have been met.
  • Personnel transfers have been shown to be feasible despite the labour shortage.
  • The information mentioned above has been made available in a timely way to concerned parties, including unions, so that they can analyze it and verify that all conditions that would justify and authorize the rollout have actually been met.
  • Test menus intended for the hub lab have been reviewed to take into account the need to provide Quebecers with locally available services.

If tests are sent back to partner labs or kept there despite the initial test menu, make sure that the partner labs have all the necessary resources (machines, equipment, staff) to take charge of these tests and provide optimal service.

How can I find out more about this topic?

For more information, contact the APTS at

Looking back at the APTS tour of Québec laboratories

Over the past 18 months, the APTS has gone to meet members employed in public-system labs throughout Québec. Our goal was to ask them about the issues they face on a daily basis and to take stock of the overall situation in labs. Here are some of our major findings:

  • Labs are able to function because their employees are deeply committed and have an expertise that is irreplaceable. But these employees are worried about the future of their profession: at this point, it’s proving difficult both to bring new employees into the public system, and to attract new students to CEGEP training programs.
  • The labour shortage is putting a lot of pressure on people currently working in labs. The labs are understaffed, and employees are forced to shoulder excessive workloads in order to avoid multiple breaks in services.
  • The centralization of labs established by the OPTILAB reform is making it more difficult for the public system to provide rapid access to high-quality local services.
  • Bringing people with a variety of job titles into labs is causing problems in terms of recognizing the expertise of medical technologists and graduate medical laboratory technicians. This expertise needs to be more clearly acknowledged.


Past events


During National Medical Laboratory Week, we invited APTS members working in this crucial sector to post stories on social media with the hashtag #myexpertisematters, telling us how their expertise makes a difference to the people who benefit from their services.

See our social campaign on:

YouTube I Facebook I Instagram 



The APTS also presented a webinar on April 19, 2024, with the theme OPTILAB: The APTS in action for the future of our laboratories (in French).

Who’s invited?  This webinar is intended for lab personnel.

What’s it about? Participants will look back at the origins of the OPTILAB reform and the APTS’s ten years of mobilization to ward off the ministerial steamroller.