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The success story behind the COVID-19 testing site

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began in the province and the call went out for health-care workers to help staff the COVID-19 testing site at BC Children's Hospital and BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre, nurses didn't hesitate to step up.
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​"All of us feel really inclined to help out, especially during a time like this," says Registered Nurse Elisa Nguyen, who works full-time at the campus COVID-19 Collection Centre. "It's just instinct for us to try to help out where we can."

Sue Burgoyne, program manager of BC Children's Hospital Emergency Department, Nursing Resource Team, Bed Access & Utilization and the operations lead for the campus COVID-19 Collection Centre, says the way the nurses jumped into action was inspiring.

"That was back when anxiety was highest around COVID-19," says Burgoyne. "Those nurses were like angel nurses. They didn't hesitate. They took on those roles like heroes, I thought."

"I've been impressed by the nurses, who volunteered to work at the site," 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've now been able to test more than a thousand people."

Increasing testing capacity and adapting on the fly

The campus COVID-19 Collection Centre was initially set up in March to test Provincial Health Services Authority staff, but soon expanded to include testing for essential service workers, children, pregnant women and people referred by 8-1-1. It is now open to the general public as part of the province's testing strategy.  

Being agile with the necessary changes was key in getting the campus COVID-19 testing site up and running.

"We were identifying issues, solving them and evaluating how we solved them - all the time," says Deirdre Shirley, the director of clinical informatics, who helped lead the set-up of the campus COVID-19 Collection Centre. "Everybody was so adaptable."

For that reason, she says, the clinic came together in a matter of days.

"Typically, putting a clinic like this together would take months of work," she says "I just think it was amazing how everybody pulled together to make this a reality within a very short space of time. It was remarkable."

"It was kind of like a little start-up," says Burgoyne. "Everybody's been so flexible to change on a daily basis. The people we reached out to were so responsive in supporting this clinic. We've turned on a dime."

"There were a lot of people that helped put up walls and reorganize the whole clinic," says Goldfarb. "It was a quick mobilization, from people setting up the computers and printers to the carpenters and facilities workers, who were putting up walls and putting in doors."

Detecting antibodies and reducing cases

The COVID-19 Collection Centre is now also assisting with the effort to validate serology testing in B.C., which is key to detecting COVID-19 antibodies and helping to understand whether people who have been infected have immunity to the virus. This has further involved participation from the laboratory, including clinical chemistry and phlebotomy. 

"I was amazed at how willing people have been, who've tested positive, to come back and give blood," says Goldfarb. "We need blood samples from people who are confirmed positive to validate the new serologic testing the province is doing. Almost everyone that we called, agreed to come in."

Testing is proving to be important in helping to reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases in the community - and to increasing health -care services.

"I believe that testing is so important for opening up our hospitals again," says Shirley, "and this clinic is key to ramping up our services."

A true team effort

Shirley has also enjoyed forming new co-worker relationships through the testing site operations. 

"One of the best things is getting to know people I wouldn't normally work with and developing partnerships," says Shirley.

Burgoyne agrees. "For me, despite the overall COVID-19 anxiety, setting up the clinic has been energizing. We were able to set it up so fast, make it work, make the necessary changes and be dynamic. All the support people who created the electronic forms, the registration people and the supply chain people have been so great and contributed to this success."

"Everyone plays a part," says Burgoyne. "I would like to think we contributed to protecting our staff and to the overall safety of our site." 

To find a COVID-19 Collection Centre near you, please see this handy map.

BC Children's Hospital; COVID-19; testing
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