New ‘Panther’ machine processes 1,600 COVID-19 tests per day at KGH

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The Kelowna General Hospital’s COVID-19 lab is able to increase its testing capacity by 70 per cent thanks to a new piece of equipment.

KGH, as well as Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, have received Panther fusion instruments, which are laboratory machines that can process more coronavirus tests than ever before.

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The new machines have increased Interior Health’s ability to process samples from about 900 in a day to over 1,600, ensuring timely results even in a surge event, the health authority said in a newsletter.

To make room for the new technology, renovations had to take place at both sites.

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The KGH lab increased its size by 1,200 square feet. A project that normally may have taken nine months, was completed in nine weeks, IH said.

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“This is what you can accomplish when this is everyone’s top priority. It was really breaking down silos to make this happen. It was a huge feat at both sites. To see whole groups of people coming together to support the labs was amazing,” says Hope Byrne, director of lab operations for the Okanagan.

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At RIH where there was already a first-generation Panther in place, renovations had to be made to a tight space to accommodate the new Panther.

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Among the teams that worked to bring the project to fruition were lab managers and employees, medical microbiologists, infection prevention and control, workplace health and safety, capital planning and projects as well as the contractors who worked on the renovations.

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“There was a big effort that went into increasing our capacity to test COVID-19 samples and making sure our communities stay safe,” said Hope.

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“It’s a credit to the dedication of the teams involved to provide this enhanced testing to patients in Interior Health.”

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COVID-19 testing is ramping up once again in B.C.’s Interior, after testing tapered off over the holidays.

At the peak, approximately 1,600 tests were performed per day in early December but that dropped to a low of 250 tests completed on Dec. 27 due to a drop in testing demand.

As of Jan. 7, the most recent data available on the BC CDC COVID-19 dashboard, 995 tests were conducted in the region.

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