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Coronavirus / Gilbert Bain now equipped to do Covid-19 emergency testing

NHS Shetland took delivery of a Covid testing facility in April. Photo: NHS Shetland

THE ARRIVAL of a machine for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is responsible for Covid-19, will not change NHS Shetland’s approach to testing for coronavirus.

The £80,000 Cepheid GeneXpert desktop equipment was provided by the Scottish Government through the Scottish Microbiology and Virology Network (SMVN) and is now based in the Gilbert Bain Hospital’s laboratory. It became operational on Tuesday.

According to Cepheid’s own promotion material a test result can be expected with in 45 minutes. Before the arrival of the machine test swabs were analysed at laboratories in Aberdeen and Glasgow resulting in long delays for results to become available.

Laboratory manager Robert Wardrop said the machine is designed for small-scale, urgent testing and runs individual tests at a time.

“We are extremely grateful to the SMVN for making this happen. This machine was destined for somewhere else but was redirected to us, because of our isolated location, to enable us to do emergency testing,” he said.

“This is not for large scale community or sentinel (surveillance) testing.”

The machine will be used to test for Covid-19 when:

  • a very ill patient needs to be airlifted (for something other than Covid-19) but has a fever (the result would then dictate how the patient is transferred);
  • a patient is admitted to hospital with suspected Covid-19;
  • a key worker or one of their family members is showing symptoms.
  • a care home patient showing symptoms;
  • a hospital patient is returning to a home where someone is shielding.

Consultant in public health Dr Susan Laidlaw said the general testing strategy has not changed just because Shetland now has a machine.

“The main difference for us is that we can test results much more quickly. We follow Scottish guidance, but of course that is subject to change,” she said.

“We will continue to test the same groups: all those admitted to hospital with symptoms, all those in care homes with symptoms,  and some symptomatic staff or staff household members in order to get essential staff back to work.

“There may be other circumstances where we test people for public health or infection control reasons, which would be the same for any other infection. As with everything else in the situation, this is subject to change.”