There are several labs across the state that are involved in testing for coronavirus. Clinical Labs of Hawaii is one of those facilities. The facility has 115 employees at its Aiea Heights location and it processes almost 10,000 tests per day. 15 of their technologists are specifically assigned to handle COVID-19 tests and it’s a 24/7 operation. Angelika Marchello says the additional work with COVID-19 testing was unprecedented for her operation.
“The community demand and needs were there. We needed to provide those testing results. We started seeing an increase immediately,” Marchello said.
Here’s how it works. When a person is swabbed at a clinic or healthcare center, a courier picks it up and delivers it to the lab. From there, employees verify information on the vials to match it to the right patient. Then things get technical involving an array of specialize equipment and procedures.
“From there it will get processed and prepared for the instrument, and then once it’s ready, it will be put on the testing platform to be tested,” Marchello said.
Each test takes around three hours to process. Marchello says a common reason for a delayed result everyday occurs when the name of patient doesn’t match the name or birthday on the vial.
“The sample has to be labeled accurately. It has to match what’s on the requisition. If it doesn’t, we have to stop processing altogether, we have to verify the patient identification is correct before we can continue,” Marchello said.
Other factors that slow-down processing include staffing shortages, equipment maintenance and transportation time from the collection site to the lab.
Besides coronavirus tests, the lab processes around 7,500 samples for other infectious diseases and blood disorders such as E.coli, salmonella and leukemia.
“People are sick 24/7, they don’t take a day off so we’re here 24/7. We operate all shifts, all hours. We need to get those results out to the physician as soon as possible,” Marchello said.
Marchello says the lab hopes to expand COVID-19 test processing from around 5,000 now, up to 10,000 samples per day by the end of the year.