New equipment increases COVID-19 testing capabilities

Published 9:41 pm Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) is getting two new instruments to perform more COVID-19 tests in-house.

During the last 10 months, VCU Health CMH had to reserve testing to sick, admitted patients and those having urgent surgery, sending all other incoming admissions tests performed at CMH to Richmond.

This new equipment makes it possible for the laboratory to perform all required COVID tests for all incoming admissions and surgeries, decreasing the time it takes to get results. The lab is currently averaging 20,000 total lab tests per month. Manufacturers allocate COVID test supplies on a limited, daily basis so this will increase capacity for routine COVID testing to meet the hospital’s needs.

Christina Duke, MS, BS, MLScm (ASCP), director of laboratory services, resides in Chase City and has been employed at VCU Health CMH for 15 years. She has seen a drastic increase in volume since the pandemic started.

“Laboratorians have always been behind the scenes but now people are seeing up front the value in why we are here.  We are excited to be able to provide additional testing capabilities, in order to provide better patient care in this community,” she said.

The current laboratory did not have enough space for the new equipment, so they had to relocate some office space and expand the lab footprint, which took two weeks of remodeling. The instruments perform a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test which amplifies genetic material so the virus can be detected in people without symptoms. This is considered the gold standard in testing. VCU Health CMH invested $130,000 to bring this technology to the South Hill community. Once the equipment is fully operational, which is expected before the end of the month, the lab will be able to run up to 16 tests in an hour and a half.