Back to home

KGH, RIH labs increase COVID-19 testing capacity

KGH, RIH labs increase COVID-19 testing capacity
Members of the "KGH Panther Team" (left to right): Angella Knight, Maxwell McLaughlin, Stephanie Chabot, Kendra Soukeroff, Dr. Amanda Wilmer, Dr. Melissa Caza.

New pieces of equipment, fast track renovations and great teamwork led to a massive increase in the number of COVID-19 tests that are able to be processed at Kelowna General Hospital and Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

KGH and RIH are now home to new Panther fusion instruments, laboratory machines that have increased the capacity for each hospital to perform testing on COVID-19 samples.

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.

With these advancements there are new career opportunities with the IH lab teams. Explore career options in IH labs here.

To make room for the new technology, renovations had to take place at both sites and a wide array of employees are credited for their perseverance to get the job done in quick order.

The KGH lab increased its size by 1,200 square feet (11 square metres). A project that normally may have taken nine months, was completed in nine weeks, to allow for the Panther.

“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.

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 as well as a biological safety cabinet. It came on the heels of a renovation in the micro department last year but employees were up to the challenge and new staff were trained and procedures put in place.

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

“There was a big effort that went into increasing our capacity to test COVID-19 samples and making sure our communities stay safe,” says Hope. “It’s a credit to the dedication of the teams involved to provide this enhanced testing to patients in Interior Health.

Photo caption: RIH team members celebrate the opening of the new Panther Fusion testing instrument. From left to right: Attending the ribbon cutting ceremony is (L to R) Dr. Rehan, Medical Microbiologist, Deb Eckert, Operations Supervisor, Laura Smith, Tech Lead Micro, Shelley Sanders, PPL, and Lindsey Eastman.