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A part of the bigger picture

How new lab instruments are helping increase capacity to B.C.’s health-care system.
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Picture: ​Len Perry, Lab Operations Manager at Vancouver Coastal Health

​In recognition of Medical Lab Week, we're profiling lab staff who are making a difference to the patients, clients and families we serve.

For a self-described introvert, working in laboratory medicine seemed like a natural fit for Len Perry. Thirty years later, the Laboratory Operations Manager says his career has been an opportunity to make a difference and be part of the bigger picture when it comes to providing health care to British Columbians.

"Lab is everything and all that I know," says Len, who describes falling into lab medicine as serendipitous. "I take great pride in the work we do every day."

After studying and beginning his career in Calgary, Len began working with Vancouver Coastal Health in 2008—supporting both Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and Richmond Hospital. Over that time, he's seen advances in laboratory medicine that could never even have been dreamt of when his career first began. Developments in cutting-edge automated platforms and new high-volume testing menus have meant he has to constantly adapt and learn new ways of doing his work to better serve both clinicians and patients. Now, he's part of a larger team working on a project five years in the making to upgrade the automation line in VGH's chemistry lab.

Expanding services and providing value

Vancouver General Hospital will be home to a new automated chemistry line. The new technology incorporates many of the stand-alone instruments into one analyzer—allowing the lab to increase its testing capacity by 30 percent.

"The upgrade will allow us to meet an ever-increasing demand for lab results," says Len. "We'll be able to run more tests —meaning clinicians will have quicker access to the information they need to better support patients through diagnosis and treatment plans."

While the large project requires renovations to the VGH lab, the team hopes to have the new equipment up and running by January 2023. In addition to the increased lab capacity, the state-of-the-art equipment will also provide a better workplace experience for existing staff and help attract a new generation of talent to join the team.

Recognizing the unsung heroes

Projects like the improvements to the VGH chemistry lab are important because as we broaden our health-care services—such as expanding emergency departments or additional operating rooms—the need for laboratory results increases.

"Seventy percent of medical decisions depend on lab results," says Len. "The hospital relies on the lab to produce high-quality results in a timely fashion all while delivering value to the healthcare system." Len goes on to explain that the lab team functions in the background like a light engineer at a theatre.

"Without the lights, you don't see the performance—that's what lab life is like. We're a part of a bigger picture, working behind the scenes to help improve patient outcomes.  Lab staff are just one of the many groups of unsung heroes in our health-care system."

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