After weeks of preparation, Sentara Healthcare has finally started in-house testing for the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Sentara on Monday announced it would now be able to process coronavirus tests at its newly-created laboratory at the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
The new testing lab will help shorten the wait time for results. Previously, Sentara said it could take 10 days or more for patients to receive their test results because of the high number being done at private labs.
In the past, Sentara sent a majority of its thousands of tests to LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, said Eric Young, director of laboratory services for Sentara Healthcare.
In-house testing will allow Sentara Laboratory Services to expand and expedite patient testing from facilities across Virginia and North Carolina.
“Sentara is fortunate to have the resources to respond to this crisis and begin our own testing within a few weeks,” said Tabetha Sundin, scientific director of the Sentara Molecular Laboratory, in a news release. “Waiting for test results can be nerve-wracking for our patients. We are doing all we can to speed up results and provide answers.”
The eventual goal is to be able to complete 1,000 tests each day and return results within 24 to 48 hours. Sentara hopes to reach these numbers in the next few weeks. This will be done through Sentara couriers who will routinely shuttle lab samples from across the state and North Carolina to the testing facility in Norfolk as frequently as seven times a day.
The project was completed with the purchase of an Abbott m2000 RealTime testing instrument and other related equipment involved in testing coronavirus samples.
The new testing facility will also help conserve personal protective equipment in Sentara facilities because faster test results will help eliminate negative cases of the cornoavirus sooner and allow teams to preserve the equipment for those who are positive.
Young said the new testing facility will allow priority to be given to patients tested in their emergency rooms as well as Sentara employees, adding the final phase will be to include testing for patients swabbed at doctors’ offices and have test kits from health care organizations that are clients with Sentara.
Sentara and Optima Health have launched an online assessment tool to help patients screen their symptoms and determine if they need to be tested. Patients can use the coronavirus chat feature on the website to discuss their symptoms and receive guidance.
The Sentara COVID-19 Task Force is also coming up with creative solutions to protect employees who are working during the pandemic. Sentara has partnered with other medical companies, churches and businesses to gather personal protective equipment.
There are also several methods being tested to disinfect and reprocess existing Personal Protective Equipment in order to make the equipment last longer. However, Sentara is not currently asking employees to wear a reprocessed mask and will not ask them to do so until administration is confident it will protect employees, according to the news release.
For more information, visit Sentara online.
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