Teams across the IWK Health Centre have been preparing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic for some time and the labs are no exception.
In early March, the Pathology and Lab Medicine teams ramped up their response with their first order of business: making sure supplies were available. This was key for testing to continue in case shortages occurred or supply chain issues were encountered as many of the lab’s reagents come from overseas suppliers. Working closely with procurement and vendors, the teams were able to secure a three-month supply of all high priority reagents and consumables.
Today, in response to the pandemic, the IWK Microbiology Lab processes and sends upwards of 100 COVID-19 swabs a day to the NSHA Central Zone referral laboratory from the IWK assessment clinic and other clinical teams.
“All COVID-19 testing is completed at the QEII lab where over 1,000 provincial COVID-19 screening swabs per day are tested at this time, and results are available within 24 hours,” says Leota Dickey, director, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and MMGS. “We’ve adapted our workload to accommodate the COVID-19 swab influx. Medical laboratory assistants have been redirecting their efforts to processing and transferring these samples quickly, we’ve added a shift on the weekends to help with coverage.”
In addition, plans are underway to expand testing to the IWK and each zone in NSHA based on a new, rapid test that received Health Canada approval last week. The GeneXpert platform already exists in multiple Nova Scotia sites, including the IWK, and test kits have been ordered with the hopes to begin this process in the near future.
“During this time of uncertainty, challenges and disruption in everyone’s lives, the Pathology and Lab Medicine team has shone with their commitment to serve not only the patients/families, but provide support toward their fellow team members,” says Dickey.
Additional staff have been brought in for orientation to sustain services as community spread increases. Staff have made adjustments to shift schedules, work spaces and processes to limit close contact with team members.
“It has been amazing to see this team step up in incredible ways to keep one another safe and healthy so that we can keep providing quality and robust service for our patients, especially in these challenging times,” says Dr. Lori Beach, clinical biochemist.