When the Saskatchewan health-care system needed to get rapid results close to the patient to alleviate pressure on health-care facilities, it turned to the GeneXpert and its “point-of-care” testing capability.
The GeneXpert is a molecular testing platform which can be located throughout labs in the province for immediate diagnostics. It significantly expands testing capacity while improving turn-around times as it does not require the transportation of swabs to urban locations. The GeneXpert runs samples onsite, reducing transportation time, and it reduces test wait times to 45 minutes for some patients. These features make GeneXpert particularly valuable to remote and Northern communities.
While the GeneXpert runs tests quickly, it cannot test the same high volumes as equipment in Saskatoon and Regina. Therefore, the triaging of specimens is key to the success of GeneXpert’s use: the machine can get faster results for more critical situations while also freeing up other instruments to test more routine samples.
The SHA prioritized the GeneXpert for certain groups to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Examples include remote/isolated communities with a declared outbreak, long-term care residents or staff in an outbreak investigation, patients where an immediate result is needed to determine triaging, and where the Medical Health Officer specifically requests point-of-care testing. Not only was this technology helpful in the health setting, but it was also useful for public-facing services such as the RCMP, firefighters, and food stores.
The SHA installed GeneXperts in eight rural communities in the fall of 2019 to detect Influenza A, B, and respiratory syncytial virus. With these eight in place as well as the addition of 11 more for the pandemic, the SHA has had the enhanced capacity to perform rapid COVID-19 testing. Lab technologists and combined laboratory/X-ray technologists currently run the GeneXpert technology in over fifteen communities in every corner of the province, from La Loche to Moosomin.
To date, GeneXpert machines have ran over 1,200 rapid tests across the province, and will continue to serve local needs where an immediate response is required.
Edith Gibbons (CLXT), Combined Laboratory X-ray Technologist in La Loche with a GeneXpert.