Blog
Apr 20
Blog: Lab Professionals in the Time of COVID

Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, April 18 - 24, is an annual celebration of medical laboratory professionals and pathologists who play a vital role in healthcare and patient advocacy.

This year, the recognition is especially meaningful given the invaluable role laboratory professionals play during a pandemic. Here at Saratoga Hospital, the Laboratory Services team of about 150 skilled staff has been all hands on deck since the beginning.

While performing their regular tasks of analyzing blood, urine, and tissue samples, these highly trained individuals additionally took on thousaMedical Laboratory Professionals Weeknds of COVID-19 tests, too, processing overall about 800 or 900 different types of specimens a day.

It was a daunting task, especially as laboratory work is necessarily meticulous with many checks and balances because patients are relying on accurate results in a timely manner. The work of pathologists and their team is an essential part of a physician being able to make a diagnosis.

When COVID Began
Director of Laboratory Services Richard Vandell and the full Laboratory Services team stepped up to the plate early in the onset of our COVID-19 response. The team was heavily involved in preparations and testing, acquiring supplies, educating staff about the virus and its transmission, and providing information on the level of severity the disease could reach. Laboratory staff were trained in the special handling of packaging and shipping of infectious disease specimens and made sure the results were given rapidly into the right hands.

The Testing Tent
The team led the way in testing for the virus, opening Saratoga Hospital's testing tent on March 10, 2020, which has continually operated, nonstop, six days per week, often at very high volumes. Our testing tent has been the longest-running in the Capital Region. In the last year, Saratoga Hospital's testing tents have administered more than 150,000 coronavirus tests. Surpassing this milestone is a testament to the stamina and resourcefulness of our testing tent team, including nurses, laboratory technicians, and supply and engineering teams. 

When Supplies Ran Short
At one point last year, the testing supply shortage slowed the volume, but this innovative team didn't let that stop them. Working closely with Pharmacy Services, the laboratory team developed a key ingredient that was in short supply: the viral transport media, a preservative for specimens. After passing tests for acceptable use criteria, the solution was able to be made in our own pharmacy so we have never run out.

When other testing supplies ran low, a team of our doctors and laboratory professionals demonstrated that "pooled testing" works, combining the tests of different patients to preserve supplies. The process, after receiving emergency use authorization by New York State Department of Health, earned national and international attention, and was published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine. 

And, on top of all that, these extraordinary professionals continue to provide routine lab services to both inpatients and outpatients as needed. They are another example of the excellent work being done by many of our departments during this crisis. We are proud to recognize and celebrate them during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, and every week, at Saratoga Hospital.

Saratoga Hospital's Laboratory Services are available at several convenient locations. Learn more at SaratogaHospital.org


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