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Lab technicians looking to speed up COVID-19 testing process

Ontario's lab technicians are looking for ways to run tests for COVID-19 faster to meet the province's growing needs
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As the number of presumptive cases continues to grow, so does the local need for viable COVID-19 testing.

CEO of the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, Christine Neilsen, says right now, there isn’t enough supply to meet demand.

She tells the Mike Farwell Show on 570 NEWS there are currently over 7000 medical lab technologists in Ontario.

“On any given day, the labs are under strain because of the sheer volume of testing that happens. So this is a new strain on a system that was already suffering. We’re getting ready for a shortage of medical technologists as well, as the baby boomers are retiring. We have known a shortage was coming, but a pandemic is making us feel it even more so in the labs.”

Neilson says the number of tests being done will improve week by week.

“We’re increasing our capacity exponentially. So I have colleagues that are doing 500 tests one day, but by the end of the week, they will be able to do a thousand tests. And that’s either by adding additional shifts or additional equipment. So I think help is on its way, but we’re stuck in a little bit of a lag phase right now.”

She says it’s currently a very manual process and it takes up to four hours to process 96 samples.

“So this is a very labour intensive job that is not like some of the other tests we do in the lab, like a chemistry test. So it’s very hands-on because it involves the extraction of DNA. We’re looking for the coronavirus in the DNA and we have to be able to make sure that we can find what we are looking for.”




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