A $655,000 investment in laboratory services at the Royal Hobart Hospital has increased Tasmania’s COVID-19 testing capacity.
The lab has been expanded and will see the addition of two new pieces of equipment, the Alinity-m and the MagNa Pure 96.
RHH microbiology and infectious diseases director Dr Louise Cooley said the lab was averaging about 600 tests per day but this investment would allow staff to comfortably process up to 1000 per day.
“If we have to do a big surge, we think we can get up to 1800 to 2000 tests a day at the most,” Dr Cooley said.
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She said the new equipment both added capacity in terms of the number of tests which could be processed per day but also allowed for tests to be processed urgently if required, for example if someone had presented to hospital.
“We do have very limited capacity to do urgent testing,” Dr Cooley said.
“The issue with that is the supply nationally is tightly controlled. We have an allocation every fortnight.”
Dr Cooley said the lab had offered its testing services to Victoria but logistically it was difficult to transport specimens to Tasmania and back.
“And in Victoria, unlike Tasmania, there’s a large private laboratory system that’s picked up a lot of the testing,” she said.
Health Minister Sarah Courtney said the investment meant the state could flex up its testing if required.
When asked why this investment had been made when the state did not currently have any active COVID-19 cases, Ms Courtney said the government wanted to ensure the health system was as prepared as possible.
“Only a few cases can transform to hundreds in the community,” she said.
“Rapid identification and response to emerging clusters and outbreaks will help to minimise any transmission in the event of an outbreak.”
Ms Courtney said the process for members of the public to access testing had not changed and encouraged any person even with mildest cold or flu symptoms to arrange a COVID-19 test.
- To arrange COVID-19 testing, call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 or contact your GP.