Turnaround time for COVID-19 test results slashed

THE Wide Bay is providing faster turnaround times for COVID-19 results thanks to a state-of-the-art pathology testing machine installed on the Fraser Coast.

The new Hologic Panther Fusion machine will slash waiting times for COVID-19 test results. PHOTO: Supplied.

The new machine was installed at Hervey Bay Hospital recently.

The new Hologic Panther Fusion machine, valued at $275,000, can diagnose COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory conditions in around three hours.

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When operating at full capacity, the Panther is capable of testing around 750 samples a day.

Member for Hervey Bay Adrian Tantari described the machine as a “great addition” to the region’s health care system, including its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Locals will see faster turnaround times for testing results, which will make sure that people get the right treatment in the fastest possible manner,” Mr Tantari said.

The machine, although based in Hervey Bay, will process tests for virtually all Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service facilities, including those in Maryborough, Bundaberg and the North Burnett region.

This means most patients will receive their results within 24 hours.

Some cases may even have a same-day turnaround.

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Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath said the delivery of the Panther analyser formed an important part of the Queensland Government’s commitment to ensuring the health system remained strong while managing the coronavirus pandemic.

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“Equipment such as the Panther ensures faster results and greater certainty for patients – and in the unfortunate event of a positive COVID result, earlier intervention from the Public Health Unit to help stop community transmission,” Minister D’Ath said.

“Outside of COVID, it will also be an important tool for public health teams in responding quickly to contain outbreaks of respiratory illnesses in vulnerable settings, such as aged care facilities and correctional centres.”

The Panther uses Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing, which is considered the most sensitive method for testing for COVID-19.

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive Debbie Carroll said the new analyser meant almost all pathology samples from its facilities could be tested locally in a public pathology lab instead of being transported to Brisbane – except in extreme surge periods.

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“Not only is the Panther a crucial addition to our service capability while we’re responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will also be of long-term benefit when carrying out other pathology testing such as for influenza, rhinovirus and other respiratory illnesses and infections,” Ms Carroll said.

“We’re also strongly driven by a desire to improve the patient experience. In the context of COVID-19, this has meant a lot of work to provide accessible and efficient drive-through fever clinic testing to ensure we’re removing as many barriers to testing as possible.”

She said the service understood some people might be put off by the need to isolate after a test.

“With our fever clinics operating at full steam, faster turnaround times thanks to the new Panther, and automatic SMS alerts for negative results, we’re doing our utmost to make COVID-19 testing a simple and quick process for our community and visitors,” Ms Carroll explained.

“Even better, the positive effect of having this machine will be felt not just now, but well into the future as we continue our efforts to reduce the impact of respiratory conditions on our region.”

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