Community Regional Medical Center prepares to ramp up COVID-19 testing, if needed

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Widespread testing is needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic effectively. Test kits were initially tough to get, but hospitals are now taking in more deliveries of badly needed equipment.

Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno expects to soon have the capability to handle a thousand coronavirus tests a day, if needed.

The hospital started doing its own swab tests last week on some patients, but more test kits and equipment are now being delivered.

"Having our own in-house testing has helped a lot with testing our front-line people. The nurses, medical providers and our phlebotimists." said CRMC Lab Director Hap Morrisey. "It has really cut down on the amount of PPE that we're using."

Marilyn Mitchell helped set up the new lab. Technicians are already testing up to 80 samples a day. Mitchell says the test takes about 45 minutes, and they can do 48 at a time.

"It's extremely important that they know right up front so that the isolation protocols of the hospital can be followed," Morrisey said.

The new equipment comes from three different companies, but they're similar systems, so they all use the same reagent, or fluid, needed to test the swab samples.

"Knowing the result upfront doesn't often change the treatment, but it really helps on the isolation and where we put them so that other patients are not exposed," Morrisey said.

CRMC is now able to get results from patients who get tested in a tent outside of the emergency room. Samples previously had to be sent to a lab in Tulare County, so the new system reduces the turnaround time.
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