Forrest General has begun processing its own COVID-19 tests.
The hospital received testing kits this week, which will allow health care personnel to process tests. They spent time earlier this week validating the process.
The 545-bed medical facility runs the Cepheid Infinity System, which features a setup with 24 modules and is used by hospitals worldwide. The hospital has had the system in place for a number of years and has used it to test for flu, sexual diseases, strep, RSV, MRSA, C. diff and other infectious diseases.
The company developed the automated molecular test for the detection of COVID-19. The system delivers point-of-care results within an hour.
“We are proud to announce the successful integration of a test for COVID-19 into our test menu for Forrest Health,” said Stephanie Brown, chief administrative technologist. “Unlike point-of-care instruments that require back-up testing for confirmation of negative results, the Cepheid Infinity gives us the ability to provide accurate molecular results in a timely manner. This instrumentation has been in place for years at our hospital and has always provided reliable results to provide the best care for our patients.”
Millie Swan, Forrest Health vice president, said she is excited to now have in-house testing capabilities.
“This will enable us to turn test results around in-house without transporting them to outside labs. This will also allow us to provide test results in a more timely manner,” she said.
Brown added that the system will also provide the safest methodology for lab employees. She said because they don’t have to extract and there is not as much manipulation outside a protected hood, employees are kept safe.
“Once the kit is closed and placed in the Cepheid Infinity System, it remains a closed system, so it doesn’t open up and expose anybody,” Brown said.
Due to the allocation of testing materials, Forrest General will limit testing only to patients in its system and will not test asymptomatic individuals.
“This does not change how we will evaluate patients for COVID-19 illness,” Swan said. “We expect patients to continue to use the Forrest General and Hattiesburg Clinic Cough and Fever Clinic as a site for evaluation in non-emergent situations.”
The hospital’s current system allows them to run 175 to 200 tests a day; however, in the near future, hospital officials expect to obtain additional modules, which will increase the facility’s capability to run approximately 500 tests per day.
The in-house testing will hopefully alleviate some of the pressure put on health care facilities by the virus.
“With the rapid spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, our nation’s testing capacity has been tremendously overwhelmed, and we have not been able to keep up with the demand for testing through our reference lab partners,” said Dr. Tim Cole, Forrest General clinical lab medical director. “We are very fortunate to be able to start testing in our laboratory for Forrest Health patients on the Cepheid platform. This will allow us to improve our result turnaround time, improve patient care, decrease exposure risks and help manage the supply of PPE. Thanks to all our lab staff who worked so hard to make this happen.”
In the past, Cepheid has a history of responding quickly and working with global health organizations to help manage infectious disease outbreaks, such as Ebola virus and 2009 H1N1 influenza.