In the 18 months the collection centre was open, it tested nearly 50,000 people and participated in major research projects that had a significant impact on B.C.'s COVID-19 response for children in the province.
“Although we are small, relative to other sites, our COVID-19 collection centre provided many staff, patients and essential service workers an opportunity for expedited testing, which was an important service throughout the 'testing' phase of the pandemic," says Sue Burgoyne, program manager of BC Children's Hospital Emergency Department and the operations lead for the campus COVID-19 collection centre.
“I'm especially grateful to all of the nurses and clerks who stepped up to work in the clinic without hesitation during a very stressful period and to the all the support people who made the development of the clinic possible. It was an amazing example of teamwork at its best. "
In what would normally take months, the centre was set up in a matter of days in March 2020, when the pandemic first broke out in B.C. It was meant to test Provincial Health Services Authority staff, but soon expanded to include testing for essential service workers, children, pregnant individuals and then the general public.
The centre was integral in pandemic research, as well, including a dozen research and quality improvement studies. Research collaborations were formed with the BC Children's Hospital Research Institute, the BC Children's BioBank, the BC Centre for Disease Control, as well as several national and international partners.
“We were able to support numerous research studies including a COVID-19 vaccine trial for six-month to five-year-olds," says Dr. David Goldfarb, a medical microbiologist and pediatric infectious disease physician who worked as the medical lead of the campus COVID-19 collection centre. “We collaborated with the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) on a number on projects too, including the mouth-rinse and gargle sample collection. Essentially all the school districts in Lower Mainland received take home sample collection kits and this was organized by the collection centre staff, laboratory staff and volunteers. It was helpful for families who found it challenging to get to collection centres."
The centre worked with labs across B.C., Canada and internationally to support implementation and evaluation of new testing methods.
“We utilized the opportunity to do a lot of quality improvement and research studies that let us understand better ways to test for the virus, particularly in children," he says. “We also made videos that facilitated testing in kids. That was a team effort through the collection centre. One has about three million views and was watched by people in B.C. and internationally."
The centre helped to generate COVID-19 videos, including:
“I want to recognize the collaborative work between programs across the campus that made our collection centre a true success," says Christy Hay, the executive director of Clinical Operations. “Specifically, I would like to thank our nursing and registration staff who worked in the collection centre over the past two years, the physicians who agreed to be the ordering physician on requisitions to streamline processes, our security personnel, our porters, lab staff, the research institute, and our volunteers. Without all of these individual contributions, the clinic would not have had the success it did in supporting access to testing for health-care workers, as well as patients and their families."
Testing is still taking place at other collection centres in B.C. For more on who qualifies for a COVID-19 test at a collection centre and where they are located, see the BCCDC website.