If you’ve recently had a routine pap test, you may be waiting months to hear your results.

Before the pandemic, lab results were typically ready two to four weeks after an exam. But Cambridge family doctor Sharon Bal says they’re now taking four to five months to be returned.

“As an example, most of mine that are coming in are from early to mid-August right now,” Bal said. “Actually on the weekend I had one that came in from the end of July.”

The CEO of the Medical Lab Professionals Association of Ontario said the ongoing lab staffing shortage, which snowballed during the pandemic, is just one reason for the delay. Increased demand is also contributing to a backlog.

“We've had a huge influx of pap smears come in,” Michelle Hoad said. “As you can understand, people didn’t go into the doctor during COVID… they decided to wait, so they are all doing them now.”

About 400 more medical lab technologist are currently needed in Ontario to meet demand.

“There are six programs in the province that graduate anywhere from 200 to 250 a year. The programs are three to four years, so the solution of graduating and using those grads really isn’t going to fix our problem for almost six to eight years.”

Hoad says she’d like to see schools increase their student volumes, adding that labs need more funding too.

Doctors can rush results for those at higher risk. For now, the delay seems to only be impacting those who are awaiting routine screening results from OHIP-covered pap tests done every three years.

“I think that it’s going to be worked though,” Bal said. “It should not discourage anyone from coming in and getting their test done.”