Rapid testing early adopters lead the way in patient safety

Two point-of-care tests developed by Abbott have been used by health services to show how rapid testing will support Australian health services as we begin to live with COVID-19.

The PanbioTM rapid antigen test has been helping Victorians in COVID-19 hotspots safely come face-to-face with their loved ones in aged care homes, while the ID NOWTM rapid molecular benchtop analyser has helped a rural hospital reduce both influenza and COVID-19 spread.

Aged care provider, TLC Healthcare, operates 11 facilities across metropolitan Melbourne and Geelong. On September 9th this year, they became the first aged care provider in Australia to conduct rapid antigen testing on every visitor to their homes, with staff and contractors undertaking the rapid tests before each shift.

The group's CEO, Lou Pascuzzi, is thrilled by the invaluable reunions enabled by the scheme.

"We've been able to safely permit entry to family members to visit our residents for any reason, and I'm proud we've worked hard to deliver this to them first."

All visitors are tested in their cars upon arrival, at a dedicated testing unit separate from the facility itself. This means that in the event of detection of a positive case, people can be directed to a testing centre for PCR confirmation, without compromising the facility.

The PanbioTM test takes about 15 minutes to complete. Mr Pascuzzi says, "By embracing innovative technology like this, TLC Homes have been welcoming visitors for much of the pandemic, when permitted by the Department of Health. This is despite 75 per cent of our homes being located in the thick of Victoria's COVID-19 hot-spot areas.

"We take infection control very seriously. We've already implemented rosters that restrict staff to single worksites, mandatory influenza vaccinations, and achieved 100 per cent double dose COVID-19 vaccination of all staff, residents and contractors in April 2021. PanbioTM has proven to be a high-quality addition to our processes, in keeping with our standards."

When Portland District Hospital in Western Victoria purchased an ID NOWTM analyser in 2019, it became the first hospital in Victoria to do so. ID NOWTM is a rapid benchtop analyser that uses molecular technology to deliver qualitative detection of a range of respiratory viruses.

That decision has held them in good stead, as they've weathered one of the worst influenza seasons on record, closely followed by COVID-19. Michelle Punton is an Infection Control Clinical Nurse Consultant working at the hospital who was involved in the initial decision to invest.

She says, "I was updating the hospital’s annual winter plan for the health department, which is heavily focused around continual improvement, and in part aims to reduce the impact of influenza. I'd read about this machine and could see a role for it in reducing influenza spread in our Urgent Care Centre setting; so it was really a quality improvement activity. Once we had it, we used it to quickly identify patients positive for influenza A and B during what proved to be a devastating season, and it’s gone on to show even more value in the COVID-19 pandemic."

While implementing the ID NOWTM analyser during the 2019 influenza outbreak, the staff ran PCR swabs in parallel with the point-of-care tests. Michelle says the results matched 100 per cent of the time, providing great reassurance to staff. Since the COVID-19 Rapid test was introduced into Australia in 2020, we have used our ID NOWTM analyser to confirm the COVID-19 status of patients that need to be transferred by ambulance to tertiary hospitals.

With the onset of COVID-19, the opportunities to conduct rapid testing swelled, and the service has recently brought in PanbioTM kits to supplement the ID NOWTM analyser. Michelle says, "Having this additional resource will help enforce our COVID Safe plan by confirming the COVID-19 status of asymptomatic staff and contractors when required prior to entry to the Hospital and gives everyone peace of mind."

The PanbioTM COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test Device and ID NOWTM COVID-19 test are not available for use in New Zealand without authorisation by the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

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