Saskatchewan Health Authority wants to get the ‘most bang for your buck’ from the expanded use of rapid testing methods.

Author of the article:

Phil Tank  •  Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Publishing date:

Feb 05, 2021  •  1 week ago  •  2 minute read

This nasal swab test is the less commonly performed test in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan Health Authority supplied photo. Photo by MEDICAL MEDIA /jpg Saskatchewan has used about two per cent of the rapid tests it has received from the federal government.

As of Thursday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority had received 422,080 “point of care” tests and completed 10,534 as of Wednesday, according to an email on Friday from SHA spokesman Doug Dahl.

SHA president and CEO Scott Livingstone fielded a question at Tuesday’s news conference about the small percentage of tests used by the province.

“Certainly, we are working hard to deploy the tests we’ve received, but we’re doing that in a targeted way, focusing on long-term care and … we were just moving into the correctional facilities,” Livingstone said.

The rapid or point of care tests are being used in hospitals, acute care facilities and long-term care facilities.

Livingstone said “lab experts” need to be consulted to determine the best way to expand the use of rapid tests to get the “most bang for your buck.”

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He mentioned schools and businesses as possibilities for expanded rapid tests.

Two methods are in use right now for rapid tests that can deliver results in about 22 minutes.

Abbott ID Now devices process a PCR test that detects the RNA of a virus. The SHA has deployed 74 Abbott ID Now machines to 47 acute care sites, 24 of which are conducting tests; staff are being trained at the other 23.

An antigen testing method, which detects the protein associated with a virus, is being used at 74 long-term care facilities. The Abbott Panbio tests use cartridges and do not rely on a device, Dahl said.

Staff at another 22 long-term care homes are being trained in Abbott Panbio testing. The aim of the antigen tests is to detect COVID-19 in staff and residents who are not experiencing symptoms.

“As part of the SHA’s testing strategy, we have deployed (COVID-19) point-of-care testing in long-term care homes, mobile test/assessment sites, acute care locations, and some detox locations,” Dahl’s email said.

“We are also exploring options to make testing available in non-SHA locations (eg: Saskatchewan correctional facilities, personal care homes, shelters).”

The next pilot project for a rapid testing device is expected to happen with another antigen testing method, the BD Veritor Plus, a post on the SHA website says. No timeline is cited.

The post says Saskatchewan is supposed to receive three per cent of the rapid tests obtained by the federal government, based on population.

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Rapid testing results are not included in the daily test numbers released by the province, but positive cases they find are included in daily counts, Dahl said.

As of Friday, 521,073 tests had been reported in Saskatchewan, which trails the national testing rate.

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