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Piloting Rapid COVID Tests

December 12, 2020

15-minute window from test to results supports safety and quality of life. 

This week, over 50 staff at peopleCare AR Goudie Long-Term Care in Kitchener got to feel the sense of relief from being COVID-free, a little bit sooner than usual. The group were among the volunteers helping to pilot a rapid point-of-care antigen test (POCT) that gives COVID results in just 15 minutes.

“The staff were really excited about having their results right away,” says Marilyn Seabrook, an RN at AR Goudie who leads the weekly staff testing clinics at the Home. “Knowing your COVID status in a few minutes instead of waiting days – that’s a huge draw.”

peopleCare nurse performing a COVID-19 rapid test on another staff member

Like the PCR diagnostic test, POCT antigen tests require a nasopharyngeal swab

The pilot is part of a Ministry of Health-led initiative to inform potential new testing solutions in health settings such as long-term care homes and some Ontario hospitals. The goal is to compare the results of the POCT to the results from the PCR diagnostic tests that are currently the standard in Ontario long-term care homes.

Completely voluntary, the pilot simply requires staff have two swabs done at the weekly universal staff COVID testing clinic. POCT test results are read and recorded onsite, PCR swabs are sent out to a lab for testing. The comparison data is then shared with the Ministry.

Jenn Killing is peopleCare’s VP of Quality, Research and Strategic Partnerships. She says peopleCare advocated to prioritize LTC for rapid testing with timely results for staff and residents, and was pleased to work with government to remove legislative barriers and get the pilot rolling in long-term care.

“Testing and access to timely results has been one of the biggest challenges as long-term care and retirement homes fight COVID, impacting our ability to prevent and minimize spread in an outbreak,” says Jenn. “We are excited to have this opportunity to be part of an innovative testing solution that might one day be available to all Ontarians.”

COVID-19 rapid antigen test in progress

Abbott Panbio COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test

According to Francine Paquette, peopleCare’s Director, Infection Prevention and Control, having the full support of our Public Health partners was key to moving forward with the pilot in a safe and collaborative way. Waterloo Region Public Health has been actively involved and working closely with us in the planning and preparations for the launch of AR Goudie’s pilot.

“Our local Public Health teams have been a huge asset throughout this pandemic, helping to guide us in outbreak prevention and management,” says Francine. “We appreciate they also see the value in this trial to inform rapid testing that could soon support us in our goal to keep everyone safe.”

peopleCare nurse working to retrieve test results for COVID-19 rapid test

Marilyn working to retrieve test results

In the first week of the pilot, close to 80% of staff with the option to volunteer, stepped up and consented to the second POCT test. To date, the findings are promising with 100% negative results from both the POCT and PCR swabs.

Close-up of COVID-19 rapid antigen test with a negative result

Abbott Panbio COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test showing negative test result

The way Marilyn sees it, ongoing access to rapid tests would be a good thing for LTC staff and residents from both a safety and quality of life perspective.

“Quicker results will help us stop asymptomatic spread. And in future it could make it easier for families and volunteers to pass active screening and safely visit with the reassurance of a negative test. That would be amazing for our residents’ quality of life.”

peopleCare nurse holding the negative result of a COVID-19 rapid test

Marilyn Seabrook with negative test result

Feedback from staff: “I was excited when I heard peopleCare was piloting the rapid tests…This was quick, simple, and I love having my results faster!”

Read more:

Jan 12, 2021 – CTV News Kitchener – Kitchener LTC home takes part in rapid COVID-19 testing project
Jan 12, 2021 – Kitchener Today – Results ‘promising’ as over 50 local LTC staff take part in rapid testing pilot
Jan 7, 2021 – Waterloo Region Record: Waterloo Region part of pilot for COVID test that has result in 15 minutes