FRONTLINE SCIENCE. An exceptional team of NSW Health Pathology laboratory scientists based at Lismore Base Hospital are conducting diagnostic testing for COVID-19. L-R – Supervising Scientist Glenn Hawkins, Emily Storey, Erin Lysaght, David Lawless-Pyne, Leonie McIntosh and Bob Olley. Photo: Alison Paterson
FRONTLINE SCIENCE. An exceptional team of NSW Health Pathology laboratory scientists based at Lismore Base Hospital are conducting diagnostic testing for COVID-19. L-R – Supervising Scientist Glenn Hawkins, Emily Storey, Erin Lysaght, David Lawless-Pyne, Leonie McIntosh and Bob Olley. Photo: Alison Paterson

80,000 COVID tests and counting: Meet the team behind it

A TEAM of dedicated scientists have been a vital element in analysing over 50,000 of the 80,000 COVID-19 tests undertaken on the Northern Rivers.

According to NSW Health Pathology, Lismore Laboratory Manager of Microbiology, Glenn Hawkins, his team have done an exceptional job in processing the samples and ensuring patients receive accurate results - and peace of mind - as efficiently as possible.

Mr Hawkins and his team are situated at Lismore Base Hospital where they have been operating seven days a week in a laboratory under strict infection control protocols, to ensure they have been able to keep up with the demand.

He said fast, accurate testing enables early diagnosis and management of COVID-19 cases, which is vital for the protection of the community and to curb the spread of the virus.

"At the peak of COVID-19 testing were analysing over 700 samples a day," he said,

"Now it is around 200 to 250."

SUPER SCIENCE: NSW Health Pathology, Manager of Microbiology, Glenn Hawkins leads a dedicated team of laboratory scientists based at Lismore Base Hospital who have processed more than 50,000 of the regions 80,000 COVID-19 tests samples. Photo: Alison Paterson
SUPER SCIENCE: NSW Health Pathology, Manager of Microbiology, Glenn Hawkins leads a dedicated team of laboratory scientists based at Lismore Base Hospital who have processed more than 50,000 of the regions 80,000 COVID-19 tests samples. Photo: Alison Paterson

Mr Hawkins said after a sample is collected from the patient using a nasal swab, it is then analysed in a NSW Health Pathology laboratory, equipped with highly specialised equipment, including a High-Plex 24 System designed to detect and distinguish coronaviruses, by their trained health professionals.

 

ROBOTIC DIAGNOSTIC: NSW Health Pathology Supervising scientist Glenn Hawkins with a High Plex robot which allowed his team of laboratory scientists to process more than 50,000 of the regions 80,000 COVID-19 tests samples. Photo: Alison Paterson
ROBOTIC DIAGNOSTIC: NSW Health Pathology Supervising scientist Glenn Hawkins with a High Plex robot which allowed his team of laboratory scientists to process more than 50,000 of the regions 80,000 COVID-19 tests samples. Photo: Alison Paterson

"We are also set up for rapid PCR testing, to be used for high risk, high priority cases where an urgent diagnosis is needed," he said.

These include the elderly, acutely unwell patients or those with pre-existing or chronic health conditions.

He said NSW Health Pathology's rapid testing kits can detect a COVID-19 infection, with the result provided to the patient's clinician and the local public health team within a few hours of the sample arriving at the lab

Mr Hawkins said his team have been doing an outstanding job.

"Our team of nine have been operating over seven days a week from 7am to 10pm," he said.

"It's crucial to come forward for testing, even if you only have minor symptoms, to ensure we keep community transmission at bay."

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