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Inside Look: Testing for COVID-19

Get an inside look at Covid-19 testing at Morrill County Community Hospital.
Morrill County Community Hospital lab worker is ensure the test samples are properly secured.
Morrill County Community Hospital lab worker is ensure the test samples are properly secured.(Graytv)
Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 9:17 PM CDT
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SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (KNEP) -Testing for COVID-19 has been the talk of 2020.

NBC Nebraska Scottsbluff got a closer look at the men and women conducting the testing behind the scenes.

It all starts at the Morrill County Community Hospital in Bridgeport, Nebraska.

“We are preparing for this war. From start to finish we do it all here. From specimen collection to the nasal swab to blood collection, the drive thru, the specimen processing and testing.” explains Laboratory Administrative Director of Morrill County Community Hospital, Rex Famitancgo.

Rewinding to life prior to the pandemic, everyone working in the healthcare departments are taking care of the sick and injured. Everything from heart attacks and diabetes, healthcare providers are working day and night completing surgeries, daily tasks and life saving techniques. Simple doctors office check ups, specimen collection, vaccinations and so much more took place.

Fast-forward to a pandemic era, when a first and second wave of the virus (COVID-19) crashed over the world, taking thousands and thousands of lives meanwhile hospitals and healthcare departments are using all resources, are still conducting simple check ups, emergency surgeries and now are in the race to help slow the curve of a fast-growing virus.

An inside look into Morrill County Community Hospital:

It starts with a nasal swab. This is the most common test being conducted globally. The nasal swab is fairly simple - for us anyway.

The process for the test alone is one that can take minutes or hours to complete, if done right.

Famitancgo explains the type of tests they have,“The second test, type of test that we have for Covid-19 testing is the real-time chain reaction. Or the RDPC. Specific for SARS-CoV-2 . And that is done in 2 different platforms. One is done through the BD Max that is a three-hour test. And we do that twice a day one in the morning and one in the afternoon and your results are available within three hours. That is the fastest so far we can provide for a single platform.”

Staff at the Bridgeport hospital are happy to admit they have been working with other companies to ensure they are serving the community and the Nebraska panhandle the best that they can and in a fast and timely manner. In fact, Famitancgo shares with reporters they,“received the new batch testing abilities in June”. This means they are able to test for the antibodies the body produces when one becomes ill with COVID-19; the antibodies that are needed to help look for a cure, on top of testing for the virus itself.

“We work behind the scenes. Many people don’t know that we contribute to the overall well-being of the patient. We are part of the healthcare team. In 75 percent of the medical decision comes from the data that the laboratory provides to the healthcare provider.” Famitancgo tells NBC Nebraska that it takes teamwork help fight the virus. It starts and ends with your healthcare team as well as teams all across the world.

Washing our hands, wearing face masks, social distancing and following the directed health guidelines are what will help contribute the slow and stopping of the spread of the virus.

Sadly for employees working in healthcare, there is another battle they know all too well after working many months in this pandemic -a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment. “It’s a struggle on procuring agents because it’s on allocation. We are allocated 240 test a week by the company and the supplies – PPE they have been a real struggle in ordering them.” says Famitancgo.

Several scientists working in the laboratory tell a reporter that,"all the hard work we were already doing before the pandemic hit and all the work we are doing now, it is the same or more." Being lower on trained staff has been another obstacle that Famitancgo and his crew have dealt with as only two primary operators in the month of July, working hours to ensure the supply of tests, personal protective equipment and more were ordered and provided.

A reporter asks a tester, “What is it like to know you are taking a stance in making history?" The tester responded," It is my job. I joined the lab to be and make a difference, and I know our facility (Morrill County Community Hospital) is already making a huge difference thanks to Rex and CEO and our board. It feels good. It feels like I am doing what I set out to do."

Another problematic setback health officials and staff have seen as the pandemic has stretched on is people not seeking care when they need it the most. An uptick in the sick or injured prolonging a wait time to be seen has been noted. A greater uptick Famitancgo noted to reporters are those who are diabetic. “We have seen those with other underlying conditions, where they need medical treatment or care and they have not went to an appointment. For us, that is scary and for that person it can be life or death. We are here to help.” Famitancgo explains they have cleaning precautions they have put in place since the start of the virus and say,"Don’t be afraid to come in and be seen. We have a room, we have staff and we have the supplies needed to help you." concludes Famitancgo.

If you suspect that you have Covid-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has or may have the virus you can schedule your test today by going to: https://www.testnebraska.com/en

To learn more about the staff and healthcare professionals at the Morrill County Community Hospital visit their website link :https://www.morrillcountyhospital.com/

Copyright 2020 KNEP. All rights reserved.

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