AS THE Bass Coast community answers the call to get tested for COVID-19, Bass Coast Health is proud to partner with Monash Health Pathology to turnaround results quickly.

As well as playing a key role in protecting Bass Coast and South Gippsland, Monash Health Pathology is also processing the second round of testing conducted at Kirrak House, results of which are expected soon.

“Monash Health Pathology is working around the clock in the fight against COVID-19, and has responded to this pressure with great dedication and agility,” said Bass Coast Health CEO Jan Child.

“The increase in employees and install of new molecular analysers, means that we can call on the COVID-19 testing service to support our community, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

During peak times over the past week, 160 to 180 people have been tested daily (via a COVID-19 swab) at Bass Coast Health’s Hub and at the Wonthaggi Hospital Drive through.

So where do the swabs go? The swabs make the journey by courier to the Molecular Microbiology Laboratory, located at Monash Medical Centre in Clayton. Each swab is registered into the laboratory computer system, triaged and forwarded to the Molecular Microbiology Laboratory for testing.

In a specialised environment with airflow control and strict protocols, the complex testing process begins. The process, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) can be thought of as ‘molecular photocopying’. Scientists first extract the viral RNA from the swab using automated instruments, then amplify and detect the target of interest so diagnosis can be made. In the case of COVID-19 the target is SARS-CoV-2. This process takes approximately 8 hours. The laboratory uses a two-step PCR process called Multiplexed Tandem Polymerase Chain Reaction (MT-PCR).

Results from the laboratory instruments are reviewed by scientists and then transferred to the laboratory computer system. If negative, this will trigger an SMS direct to patients. The SMS notification was introduced to provide results as quickly as possible. The current turnaround time of results – which is the time it takes from collection of the swab, through transport, testing and reporting of the result – is within three days.