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Monument Health begins COVID-19 testing

Apr 13, 2020 08:32AM ● By MED Magazine
Pictured Above: Lynne Seime, Medical Technologist at the Rapid City Hospital Laboratory, processes samples for COVID-19 testing. The lab began local testing on Friday.

Monument Health began processing its own COVID-19 test samples at its Rapid City laboratory on Friday. Local testing will greatly reduce the time it takes to confirm whether a patient has been infected with the virus.

The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test has a 45-minute run time, and 16 tests can be processed at once. The lab uses existing equipment to process the test kits. Monument Health has been waiting for weeks to receive the kits necessary to perform the tests, said Michelle Stephens, Rapid City Vice President of Operations.

The initial quantity of kits available is small, Stephens said, so local testing at this point will only be used for hospitalized patients who have possible COVID-19 symptoms. It’s important to find out as quickly as possible if these patients have contracted the disease, she added, in part because caregivers and physicians must follow strict isolation procedures until the patient’s COVID-19 status is determined. Caregivers must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) each time they enter the patient’s room until the results come back. PPE is in short supply, and as the pandemic progresses more will be needed.

For suspected COVID-19 cases involving patients who are not hospitalized, samples will continue to be sent to Mayo Clinic for processing. The turnaround time for Mayo Clinic results is generally 36 hours. If you believe you have COVID-19 but are not hospitalized, call Monument Health’s Nurse Triage Line at 605-755-1350 to determine if testing is necessary.

“As we get more test kits, we hope to expand the number of patients eligible for local testing, but this is a big step in the right direction,” Stephens said.

Overall, the criteria for any COVID-19 testing, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, remain the same. The patient must have symptoms of cough, fever and shortness of breath. In addition, they must be a hospital patient, a resident of a nursing home, a health care worker, a first responder or suffering from a chronic illness such as pulmonary disease, cardiac disease or any illness that compromises the immune system. The patient will also be asked if they have had close contact with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19.

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