Priya Sharma, Technical Officer and Dory Salarda, Technical Officer (left to right)
Humble heroes in lab coats
13 Aug 2021
Over the past month our pathology teams within Nepean, Blue Mountains and Lithgow hospitals have processed between 750-1500 COVID-19 tests a day, a significant contribution to the total tests carried out across the state.
“We took on this new ‘test’ in March 2020 not knowing how long we would be doing it for, and how many tests we would be performing. We have overcome so many challenges along the way,” says Catherine Janto, Microbiology Hospital Scientist with NSW Health Pathology.
All three hospital-based NSW Health Pathology laboratories offer rapid COVID-19 testing, with all routine testing performed at the Molecular Microbiology Lab at Nepean Hospital, including any routine and confirmatory testing required by the Blue Mountains and Lithgow labs.
A vital part of the global strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. PCR testing is used across the world and determined to be the most reliable way to diagnose an active infection of COVID-19.
“The nose and throat swabs from clinics and hospital inpatients are sent to the Microbiology lab. They then go through a few stages of sample preparation, which includes a nucleic acid extraction process followed by PCR amplification, before the final result analysis,” says Catherine.
This process takes on average 5-6 hours from start to finish with multiple hands-on steps along the way.
Testing is performed by Technical Officers and Hospital Scientists, with oversight by the Senior Hospital Scientist for Microbiology, and Supervising Pathologist. All positives are immediately notified to NBMLHD Public Health Unit and the Director of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
Aarthi Calma, Technical Officer manually aspirating samples
Catherine, who has worked at NSW Health Pathology for 12 years and at the Nepean Lab for almost seven years, has marvelled at the way her team has pushed through increasing workloads and challenges.
“Observing the way my team has worked over the pandemic has made me feel exceptionally proud,” says Catherine.
“What makes me most happy is when everything is running smoothly, and everyone is negative for COVID-19!” added Catherine.
We couldn’t agree more.