Waikato DHB’s Laboratory team has rapidly increased its capacity to test for COVID-19 to ensure they are able to meet demand from one of the country’s largest testing regions.
The DHB moved quickly from 20 tests per day to over 500, with capacity for up to 800 a day if needed.
Test results are crucial in New Zealand’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Waikato has a population of over 420,000 spread across a wide geographic area and providing access was a challenge.
GPs and hospitals have been providing assessment and testing to communities from day one and the DHB has rapidly set up Community Based Assessment Centres (CBACs) across the Waikato to ensure local options were available. There are now 10 CBACs in key areas, including where clusters have been identified.
Waikato DHB has been actively encouraging residents to visit CBACs and has one of the highest testing volumes in the country with nearly 7,000 test completed to date. This equates to 11,900 tests per million population, well above the national rate of 8,881 tests per million.
The Ministry of Health has encouraged regions to increase testing and Waikato DHB is boosting its promotion of CBAC services which has included local signage, advertising and campaigns across radio, print and social media.
The DHB set up five pop-up CBACs at Countdown supermarkets on Thursday and Friday this week in areas where there had been confirmed COVID-19 cases. They are supporting random testing of asymptomatic people to provide the Ministry of Health with data which provides greater confidence in the overall picture of COVID-19 in our communities and New Zealand as a whole. Supermarkets were selected as the place where we are most likely to find people during the lockdown and Countdown is supporting the activity.
Following the latest national case definition update, Waikato DHB CBACs have been testing more than 80% of those presenting for assessment.
It is important that anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms seeks assessment for testing at a CBAC. They are open every day and travel to access health services is permitted even during the Alert Level 4 lockdown. The Countdown supermarket pops up were a two-day initiative only and the CBACs are where people should go.
A full list of CBACs in the Waikato are available here.
More about Waikato DHB’s Laboratory team
The lab team based in Waikato Hospital, set up local testing for the new virus in just days and have now carried out nearly 7,000 tests.
Test results are important to be able to provide care and support to those diagnosed and their families. The results also allow the public health team to contact trace which helps to prevent or control community spread.
“Developing and implementing a new test method involves a lot of validation to ensure that patients are provided with high quality results. The laboratory team have worked tirelessly to get the testing up and running,” says Kay Stockman, Waikato DHB Laboratory manager.
“This has been an unprecedented increase in our volume of work over a short time frame.
“And since the team introduced this new testing, each day has seen new obstacles including scaling the testing up from being able to do 10-20 per day to now over 500 tests per day, but the Specimen Registration and Molecular biology team has risen to each challenge.”