New machine set to improve Fraser Health's COVID-19 testing capacity
SURREY, B.C. -- It’s about the size of a compact SUV, weighs 1,600 kilograms, and works a bit like a giant virus-testing robot.
“Once it is loaded, it is largely like autopilot,” explains Dr. Sam Krikler, regional medical director of laboratory services for Fraser Health.
He’s talking about a new machine that sits in a conference-room-turned-COVID-19-testing-lab in a restricted area at Surrey Memorial Hospital. The equipment is currently running about 300 tests a day, but has capacity for up to 1,100.
That provides a big boost to B.C.’s previous testing capacity of 6,500 a day.
B.C. has lagged behind many other provinces in its testing rate for COVID-19, and Fraser Health has had more confirmed infections than anywhere else in the province, but only very limited, labour-intensive testing capability.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, all the testing for Fraser Health had go to the (BC Centre for Disease Control), so we’ve been in a race to get the testing technology for Fraser Health,” says Dr. Susan Roman, the head of Fraser Health’s microbiology division.
“This is great and very exciting for microbiology.”
The equipment will help B.C. prepare for an expected second wave of the coronavirus.
“These machines are in demand all over the world,” Krikler told CTV News Vancouver. CTV News asked about the cost of the machine, but was not provided with the information before deadline.
Meanwhile, doctors say the machine will be used for more than just COVID-19 testing.
“Going forward, this instrument will allow the capability to test for other viruses, both known – like influenza viruses in flu season – and, of course, we have to be ready for the next new, unknown pathogen,” says Krikler.