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Innovation, courage and teamwork in B.C. labs

COVID-19 has pulled labs from behind the scenes onto centre stage. Under immense pressure, courageous lab teams are collaborating across the province to rapidly and thoughtfully expand our test capacity and drive innovation together.
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By Craig Ivany, Chief Provincial Diagnostics Officer, PHSA

Since joining PHSA in the new role of Chief Provincial Diagnostics Officer at the start of the month, I’ve been inspired to see the teamwork, innovation and tenacity demonstrated by labs across B.C. I am also encouraged by the leading role our Provincial Laboratory Medicine Services (PLMS) team is playing as part of our emerging provincial lab network.

Labs often work in the background of our health care system, operating largely behind the scenes and out of sight – to provide the data clinicians need for diagnoses and treatment decisions. 

Today, I’m proud to highlight one of labs’ contributions to our provincial COVID-19 response so far: building a provincial testing network to rapidly expand our testing capacity. 

Curious to learn more about how the COVID-19 test was developed and what it actually looks like? Read this story for more on B.C.’s leading-edge test development and capacity increase – from initially 200 tests to now over 6000 per day.

Creating a truly provincial team across B.C.

This kind of rapid capacity increase requires nimble and responsive coordination.  

Like the NASA Mission Control ground team that supported the Apollo missions by finding solutions to pressing issues, our B.C. labs have support from a creative team of problem-solvers.

A provincial laboratory emergency operation centre (EOC) convenes daily, led by Baljit Singh on behalf of co-chairs Pam Ramsay, interim chief administrative officer for Provincial Lab Medicine Services and Dr. Blake Gilks, chief lab medical officer for the COVID-19 lab response.  

As interim executive director, Lower Mainland Labs, Baljit ensures that the EOC delivers on actions items and requirements for managing the lab response. The virtual EOC has representatives from all health authorities and private lab partners, including medical and operational directors, quality leaders and reps from Supply Chain, Human Resources and Communications.

The EOC serves as a venue for provincial problem-solving that supports our labs. 

For example, when an Interior Health lab faced a supply shortage that would impact test capacity, the EOC helped coordinate quick action to coordinate an urgent shipment from Island Health labs (shared in this story). The EOC has also helped lab teams coordinate technical innovations, transportation and logistics, strategic deployments of new technology, and cross-province knowledge sharing.

As we continue to respond to new and different phases in this pandemic, and start looking ahead to recovery, I have no doubt B.C. labs will continue to innovate and collaborate as a system.

Heading into Medical Lab Professionals week from April 26 to May 2, please join me in celebrating the extraordinary work of labs in our COVID-19 response so far. 

In the midst of COVID-19, it's also important for us all to recognize and thank the lab staff who continue to work every day to provide essential testing for leukemia, prenatal and newborn screening, HIV, STIs, cervical cancer, TB and more. They're stepping up to make sure no patients are left behind by this pandemic.

In the coming weeks, we'll share more behind-the-scenes stories about the courageous, hard-working people in labs who make this work possible.

Messages of thanks

Join the conversation and share your appreciation for lab professionals or any of our health care colleagues on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #healthcareheroes. Make sure to tag @PHSAofBC.

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