Spectrum Health expands COVID-19 testing capability

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Spectrum Health's Butterworth Hospital Courtesy Spectrum Health

Spectrum Health recently announced new COVID-19 testing equipment and additional supplies are making it possible for more people in West Michigan to be tested.

Due to the enhanced testing capacity, more people who previously wouldn’t qualify for testing may now be tested for COVID-19. Currently, a medical provider screens all patients to determine whether they should be tested for COVID-19. Testing requires a provider order and an appointment.

Until recently, testing was reserved for people showing severe symptoms, Spectrum Health employees with symptoms, hospital inpatients with suspected COVID-19 and other high-risk patients. Now, Spectrum Health can broaden the criteria of patients eligible for testing.

Spectrum Health now tests patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, as the supply of specimen collection kits and testing equipment allow. Specimens from these patients are tested at the Spectrum Health Regional Lab in Grand Rapids, which typically produces results in less than 24 hours. The health system can run 1,000 tests each day.

“Our goal has always been to test as many people as possible with suspected symptoms, but we’ve been limited by our resources,” said Susan Smith, senior director of laboratory services at Spectrum Health. “With additional testing supplies and advanced equipment, we can begin to meet the demand for testing in our region. This is a big step in our continued fight against this deadly virus.”

Smith said a key benefit of quicker results is less time spent in isolation waiting for results for patients who eventually turn out to be negative for the virus that causes COVID-19. Another is the reduction in the need for PPE, which continues to be in short supply.

Mobile test units have been deployed in each Spectrum Health regional hospital lab, further reducing delays in results due to specimen transport. These locations include United, Kelsey, Pennock, Zeeland Community, Gerber Memorial, Ludington, Big Rapids and Reed City hospitals.

Additional units also have been added at Blodgett Hospital, Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph and in the Spectrum Health Regional Lab in Grand Rapids.

Tests are processed 24 hours a day, seven days a week at each location. For community members requiring testing, appointments are required.  Results are typically received within 24 hours.

Spectrum Health started COVID-19 testing March 23 and has tested more than 8,000 patients in West Michigan. Prior to that, starting in early March, Spectrum Health sent specimens for testing to a commercial lab, ViraCor, and the state of Michigan.

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