NORFOLK, Va. - Sentara Healthcare announced on Monday they are now processing COVID-19 tests at a newly-created laboratory at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
They said the initiative will allow Sentara Laboratory Services to expand patient testing within all Sentara hospitals across Virginia and North Carolina.
They said this will shorten wait times for results by taking some of the test volume currently being sent to commercial laboratories.
They said the goal is to incrementally achieve the capacity to complete 1,000 tests per day within a few weeks and return test results in 24 to 48 hours.
“With this new testing instrument online, additional priority will be given to patients tested in our emergency departments and to Sentara employees who need to be tested,” says Eric Young, director of Sentara Laboratory Services. “The final phase will include patients swabbed at doctors’ offices and test kits from other health care organizations who are current clients of Sentara Laboratory Services.”
Young praised his staff and said they have been working around the clock to make this happen.
According to a press release, they also said an additional benefit of more rapid test results is conserving personal protective equipment (PPE) in Sentara hospitals.
They said patients who meet criteria for testing are presumed positive until they test negative, meaning all employees working with those patients must wear full PPE. Earlier test results will help eliminate negative COVID-19 patients sooner and allow our care teams to preserve PPE for patients known to be positive.
They said this new capability will not eliminate the existing backlog of tests being handled by commercial laboratories. Sentara still estimates 10 days or more for those tests to be completed due to the influx of tests being sent to those labs from all over the country.
Community members who think they need to be tested for COVID-19 should continue to use Sentara's self-screening tool found here.
If you think you meet the criteria for testing, first call your primary care provider for additional guidance. Otherwise, continue to self-quarantine at home.
Health officials ask that only older adults with symptoms or those with underlying health conditions go to emergency departments for testing or treatment of their symptoms.