CHI Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg was one of 12 locations last week to get an Abbott ID NOW rapid testing instrument to test patients for COVID-19 from the Oregon Health Authority.
Kathleen Nickel, director of communications at Mercy, said it will give the hospital more testing capacity and results in a more timely manner.
“It gives us the ability to test quickly, expand testing from current volumes and reduces the use of additional PPE (personal protection equipment) when patients are negative,” Nickel said. “Rapid turnaround in the emergency department and is also helpful in the amount of time the patient waits.”
The test is a nasal swab, and the emergency room physicians would determine who needs to be tested when the patients come in.
One of the key issues has been the use of personal protection equipment because each patient that has symptoms has to be approached as if they have the virus, so that uses up more of the protective equipment. But having the tests will help save on the supply of PPE.
“We will continue to use our other testing resources as well until we receive sufficient test kits to meet demand, dependent on supply,” Nickel said.
The Oregon Health Authority sent a machine to Mercy and 11 other medical facilities in the state earlier this month.
The OHA distributed the first three of the federal shipment of 15 machines in April but was unable to send the remaining 12 because of a lack of test supplies. Now the state says it has received enough supplies to distribute all 15 machines and continue to supply them going forward.
“They have allocated a fairly good number of tests for us,” Nickel said. “The test itself usually takes about 15 minutes to run so the results are back fairly quickly, I would say we’d probably give ourselves 45 minutes to an hour for the whole process.”
Gov. Kate Brown has said that as communities begin to gradually reopen, rapid testing will be a key tool to help ensure counties can stay open and quickly identify, treat, and isolate new cases of COVID-19.
The machines are expected to significantly improve the testing capacity in the rural areas of the state by allowing greater access and ensuring that the test specimens don’t have to be shipped to distant labs for processing.
OHA distributed the Abbott ID NOW instruments based on areas that have little or no access to COVID-19 testing; areas with a limited number of first responders; areas where courier services for the state public health lab and commercial labs are limited or unavailable; and areas with a high population of older adults and other at-risk groups.
The OHA said in the initial shipment, Oregon received only five boxes of test kits with 24 tests in each box. Those were distributed to the first three sites in rural Oregon, including Curry General Hospital in Curry County, Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Morrow County and Lake District Hospital in Lake County.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting the public to early data that suggested the test could return false negative results from using the Abbott ID NOW point-of-care test to diagnose COVID-19.
FDA officials said the test can still be used and can correctly identify many positive cases in minutes. Negative results may need to be confirmed with a high-sensitivity authorized molecular test,
“All of this is a work in progress and more information is very helpful when you’re taking care of patients,” Nickel said.