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Enhancing resident safety with rapid molecular tests

June 16, 2022

When Meaford Long-Term Care (LTC) experienced their first COVID-19 outbreak in March 2022, the team was prepared with a full outbreak plan, PPE, leading IPAC practices, the support of Public Health and many lessons learned over two years of navigating pandemic. One of these lessons is to look far and wide for the latest innovative tools that can help prevent spread of the virus in the Home – which is why the team quickly implemented the use of a new testing solution called rapid molecular tests (RMT).

Like polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which have become a household name, RMTs are a type of molecular test that can identify very small amounts of the COVID virus by copying and amplifying parts of viral genetic material.

While PCR tests are highly accurate and considered the gold-standard of COVID-19 testing, they must be analyzed in a lab – whereas RMTs are processed on-site in just 30 minutes. This is immensely valuable in rural communities like Meaford, which have periodically experienced longer turnaround times for lab-based test results than their urban counterparts.

Leveraging an existing partnership with Switch Health, a company that specializes in innovative diagnostic and technology offerings, peopleCare ordered Lucira RMT kits at the start of Meaford LTC’s outbreak to test residents on the non-outbreak unit.

According to Francine Paquette, peopleCare’s Director, Infection Prevention and Control, the early and precise detection provided by the Lucira RMTs – which have a 98% accuracy rate – was extremely helpful in containing the outbreak to one unit in the Home.

“As we saw high transmission of the virus in the community, these rapid molecular tests gave the Meaford team the ability to quickly identify and confirm potential cases on the Home’s non-outbreak unit,” says Paquette. “This allowed them to swiftly and confidently make decisions about how to care for and cohort ill and healthy residents, stopping further spread.”

In addition to stringent outbreak measures implemented by the team, the Lucira RMTs proved highly effective to enhance resident safety. Allison Lewis, Director of Care at Meaford LTC, says the team was grateful for this testing solution that helped protect their residents who mean so much.

“The rapid molecular tests were easy to use and gave us results on-site, supporting us in our goal to keep everyone safe and well,” says Lewis. “Being able to clearly determine results in just 30 minutes gave us some peace of mind during a challenging time.”

peopleCare is now considering future opportunities in which these RMTs could be used across the organization, for example if we experience longer turnaround times for PCR results as lab resources scale down in some urban communities.

Our partnership with Switch Health has also led to an opportunity for peopleCare to participate in an upcoming initiative slated for this Fall as we continue looking for new ways to enhance resident safety. Led by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto, peopleCare will pilot a new type of rapid antigen test that detects both COVID-19 and influenza.

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