St. Joe’s laboratory services provides support both to patients when being cared for in the Health Centre and people living in our community who require ongoing treatments and monitoring of medical conditions.
Every year, our laboratory performs approximately 2.75 million tests, and provides reference testing for a number of hospitals in the GTA. We are also involved in clinical studies, Medical Laboratory Technologist and Assistant (MLT and MLA) student education, and research activities. We were the first laboratory in Canada to replace cardiac enzymes with routine Troponin testing for the diagnosis of Acute Myocardial Infarction in 1995. We are currently working towards becoming the first diagnostic laboratory in Ontario to offer testing of procalcitonin. Procalcitonin is a relatively new test when used in conjunction with other tests can assist doctors in determining if a person is developing sepsis. It will also reduce antibiotic prescribing in critical care environments, which will reduce antibiotic resistance.
Please select from our inpatient and outpatient laboratory services tabs to learn more about the services we provide for our patients.
The Department of Laboratory Medicine includes a team of over 100 staff members including pathologists, a microbiologist, two biochemists, pathologists’ assistants (PAs), medical laboratory technologists (MLTs), medical laboratory technicians (MLAs), phlebotomists, transcriptionists and administrative staff.
Accreditation and Licenses
Our laboratory regularly obtains licenses and is accredited to ensure we meet all requirements to operate in Ontario.
The Institute for Quality Management in Healthcare (IQMH), funded by the Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC), sets up quality management criteria for Ontario’s licensed medical laboratories and ensures that these criteria are met (i.e. ISO 15189). St. Joe’s laboratory meets the highest standards of laboratory services and is competent in carrying out clinical testing. IQMH also offers proficiency testing, which is used to verify the accuracy of laboratory testing by comparing it with other laboratories. This means any licensed medical laboratory in Ontario will give accurate and consistent results to your doctor. Under the Laboratory and Specimen Collection Centre Licensing Act, the MOHLTC provides license when all the standards and requirements are met.
Laboratory tests, such as blood tests, are essential in assisting your physician to diagnose, treat and monitor your medical conditions. St. Joe’s outpatient lab offers a convenient location for patients in our community to get their blood work done. Physicians affiliated with the hospital are able to electronically obtain routine blood test results within hours.
Important notice for lab patients:
St. Joseph’s Health Centre’s outpatient laboratory is no longer accepting requisitions from community physicians who are not affiliated with (i.e. do not have privileges at) the Health Centre.
Most laboratory tests requested for outpatients are covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan), and can be performed at any of the nearby community lab service providers. You will not incur additional costs for tests covered by OHIP. In many cases, parking is free at the community labs.
This change is in keeping with the practice at most Ontario hospitals and will allow St. Joseph’s to provide better service to the emergency patients and other areas of the hospital.
Patient and family frequently asked questions
Where is the outpatient lab located?
The outpatient lab is located on the ground floor in the Glendale wing near the Tranquility entrance. We are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The last patient is taken at 3:45 p.m. Please contact 416-530-6275 for more information. If you would like help getting around the hospital, ask a volunteer or go to the Information Desk.
How do I get my blood work done and how does it all work?
Your doctor may request to have a sample of your body fluid (e.g. blood, urine, stool, sputum) sent for testing. The tests ordered by your doctor will determine what samples are required, how and when they are collected, how they are transported to laboratory and how they are tested.
- Ask your doctor if you need to do any preparations before getting your blood work done, such as fasting. Ensure you follow your doctor’s instructions before arrival.
- Registration is required before getting your blood work done. Registration is done at the Ambulatory Care Centre registration office by the Tranquility entrance. The registration office is open on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Please remember to bring the requisition for your blood work signed by your doctor and your Health Card (OHIP). If you were asked by your doctor to collect your urine or stool, and you need to pick up the container and instructions, please go directly to the outpatient lab and speak with one of our medical laboratory technicians.
- Once registered, go to Waiting Area A.
- Take a number and be seated. Please remain in Waiting Area A. A medical laboratory technician will call for you by number.
- Your samples will be collected by our trained medical laboratory technicians. They will deliver your samples to our laboratory at St. Joe’s to be prepared and analyzed. Results are then sent to your doctor.
What do I do if I have been asked to collect my own sample?
Some tests will require you to collect your own body fluids, such as urine or stool. You may even have to do this over a period of time. It is important that you follow the collection instructions provided by the medical laboratory technicians carefully to ensure the test results are accurate.
If you were asked by your doctor to collect your urine or stool and you need to pick up the container and instructions, please go directly to the outpatient lab and speak with one of our medical laboratory technicians. You do not have to pick up a number and wait.
Will I have to fast before my blood work?
It will depend on the type of blood test ordered by your doctor. Your doctor will tell you if there are any specific instructions you need to follow before you have your blood work done. For the majority of blood tests, you can eat and drink as normal. Here are some tests for which you will be asked not to eat or drink fluids other than water before your blood is taken:
- Fasting glucose
- Fasting lipid profile
How long does it take for my doctor to get the results?
If your physician is affiliated with St. Joe’s, most routine tests are reported electronically within hours because they are performed in our laboratory at St. Joe’s. All other special tests where your samples are sent out to other laboratories in and outside the province will take from several days to several weeks. If your doctor is not affiliated with the hospital, it will take a few days for the results to go to your doctor by mail. If your doctor has not received a report, they are encouraged to contact the laboratory.
Can I get a copy of my lab results?
Lab results are sent directly to your doctor. We do not provide lab results to patients.
Can I wear scented cosmetic products to St. Joe’s?
No. In order to provide a safe and healthy working environment for our patients and staff, St. Joseph’s Health Centre has implemented a Scent Free Environment policy. Chemicals used to add scents to personal products, such as perfumes, colognes, shampoos, deodorants and make-ups, and household products, such as air fresheners and detergents can cause serious health problems to some individuals. Some common symptoms include headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, skin irritation and nausea. Patients who have allergies to chemicals in the scented products may have an allergic reaction when exposed to even the smallest amount of odour. As a result, we ask you to be considerate when visiting St. Joe’s.
If you have sensitivity to scented products or you are feeling unwell due to odours from scented cosmetic products while in the Outpatient lab, please let one of our staff know immediately.
Please review out hospital policy here.
As the needs of our patients change, we continue to evolve to meet the needs of our clinical programs. We make use of new analyzers with improved testing methods, automated systems, research, continuous education for our staff and efficient use of available resources to maintain a position as a major diagnostic service laboratory.
Our core laboratory, which includes chemistry, hematology and transfusion medicine is open 24 hours, every day of the week to support the care provided for our inpatients and those visiting the Emergency Department.
We are responsible for providing blood and blood products for transfusion (e.g. blood transfusion is where component(s) of donated blood is added to your own blood via your veins in your arm). Blood is composed of red cells, white cells and platelets suspended in plasma, which is the fluid portion of your blood. Your doctor may transfuse any one of these components depending on your need. You may require transfusion due surgery, injury or disease.
Chemistry/immunology/Point-of-Care Testing (POCT)
In chemistry, we analyze samples of your body fluids for diagnosis and monitoring of drugs. The majority of testing is done on plasma which is the watery part of your blood. We also analyze your urine, stool and fluids in your joints and fluids in the lining between your organs.
In immunology, we assess your immune system for disorders such as immunodeficiency or autoimmunity. We do this by looking at the proteins in serum, which is the liquid portion of your blood after it has been allowed to clot. This means it is the same as plasma, but without the proteins involved in blood clotting as they have been used up in the clotting process.
Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) is any diagnostic testing done outside the laboratory in close proximity to where the patient is receiving care (e.g. at the bedside). These include simple tests such as the level of glucose in your blood. Having the results available quickly means medical decisions can be made quickly. These devices are operated by nurses providing the care, but the laboratory establishes and oversees the testing policies and procedures, training and quality assurance.
In hematology we analyze the cellular portion of your blood for blood disorders such as leukemia and anemia and possible infection. We examine your red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets and provide your doctor with a complete blood count. We also investigate bleeding disorders by analyzing how quickly your blood clots, monitor patients taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) and analyze other types of body fluids, such as joint fluids.
In microbiology, we employ various methods to determine the bacteria, fungi and viruses that invade your body. We also test the effectiveness of antibiotics against the particular bacteria in your sample to allow your doctor to effectively treat your infection.
In pathology we examine the tissue samples removed from your body during surgery or biopsy for diagnosis of disease such as cancer. This field is called surgical pathology.
As soon as a tissue is removed from the body, it is “fixed.” Fixation is done by immersing the tissue in ten per cent neutral buffered formalin to prevent tissue from decay and autolysis. The specimen is then inspected, description and measurements are documented, and cut into smaller pieces. This process is called grossing. The specimen is then dehydrated to remove all the water from the tissue. This is referred to as tissue processing. This step is necessary so that the tissue can be embedded in a paraffin wax block in a process called embedding. The wax block holds the tissue in place to allow us to cut thin sections using a microtome. This is called sectioning. These thin sections are then placed on a microscope slide. Tissue is then stained using dyes that will allow the cellular components of the tissue to be visible to be viewed under a light microscope by a pathologist. This whole process involves a team of surgeons who will remove the tissue from your body, pathologists’ assistants, medical laboratory technologists and finally pathologists, doctors who will look at those slides and make a diagnosis.
Our pathologists, with the help of pathologists’ assistants, also perform autopsy, which is a postmortem examination to determine the cause of death.
In cytology, cells from various body sites are examined to determine abnormal cells (e.g. Pap test is a cytopathology test that is used to screen and diagnose cervical cancer). In contrast to histopathology, where whole tissues are examined under the microscope, cytopathology is where free cells or tissue fragments are examined.
Phlebotomists are medical laboratory technicians trained to draw blood from patients for testing. Our laboratory has a team of skilled phlebotomists who support the internal (for patients admitted at the hospital) and external clinical programs, such as the outpatient lab and dialysis clinic.