A single health authority has helped cut down on turnaround times for patients waiting for the results of genetic testing by creating a new genetic resource centre in Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan Genetic Resource Centre (GRC) was created in November 2018. The centre is based in the Molecular Diagnostic Lab through the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory.
Dana Forrest, Genetics Supervisor, processing samples in the lab
“Not only does this centre keep more services in Saskatchewan, it also creates opportunities to build expertise within the SHA and, in many cases, will create a cost savings by doing the testing in-house versus sending tests out-of-province.” Dr. Nick Antonishyn, Director of the SGRC said.
“All physicians in the province have access to this lab, which allows them to choose the right genetic test for their patient,” Antonishyn added.
Previously, physicians in the northern part of the province needed authorization from the Division of Medical Genetics before tests were able to be ordered, while in the south, a physician first had to ask a pathologist for the testing before sending samples out-of-province.
Genetic testing is important for many different reasons, and often plays a role in answering the “why” when it comes to diagnosis, decision-making and treatment for patients. The GRC has a certified genetic counsellor who helps physicians select the best test for each individual patient and who works closely with the small team at the Division of Medical Genetics, based at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, which includes a medical geneticist and six other genetic counsellors.
Genetics Resource Team
Genetic testing is ordered by doctors daily across the province. The most popular genetic tests requested by physicians are to assess risks associated with hereditary cancer, intellectual disability or developmental delay, cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy and other genetic diseases.
“Genetic testing is now part of almost every specialist’s toolbox and should be readily accessible to any doctor, regardless of their location within the province,” Dr. Kellie Davis, Division head of Medical Genetics at the Royal University Hospital said. “Having the GRC available to them streamlines the process and ensures that every patient’s physician has access and support to order these important tests.”
Genetic testing allows physicians to do a deeper dive into hereditary conditions, either to learn more about the condition and how best to treat the patient, or determine the risk of the condition being passed down to the next generation. Physicians rely on various tests to advise their patients and work with them on determining the best next steps, either for themselves or their families.
“The Genetic Resource Centre allows us to build and grow our services, while at the same time developing and utilizing our provincial team’s full potential. This is a much better utilization of the skills and abilities of the expertise of our teams,” Corey Miller, Vice President of Provincial Programs said. “This is a big step forward for the development of the new Provincial Lab team.”
With new discoveries in the field of genetics occurring all the time, the GRC will continue to be responsive to appropriate testing needs and deliver clinically useful services in a responsible, patient-centric way, Miller added.