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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


OMAR, S et al. The impact of a mobile COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction laboratory at a large tertiary hospital during the first wave of the pandemic: A retrospective analysis. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2021, vol.111, n.10, pp.957-960. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa (SA) created numerous supply challenges. Demand for diagnostic testing overwhelmed the capacity to deliver. We describe the utility and outcomes of a mobile laboratory staffed by non-laboratory healthcare workers and established to perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for the rapid diagnosis of COVID-19 at a large hospital in SAOBJECTIVES: To describe the performance of the mobile PCR COVID-19 laboratory. The secondary objective was to determine the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in the non-COVID intensive care unit (ICUMETHODS: This was a retrospective descriptive study of data from the newly established mobile COVID-19 PCR laboratory database and the non-COVID ICU database during the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic (20 May - 8 August 2020) at a tertiary hospital in SARESULTS: The mobile laboratory received 1 113 emergency COVID-19 PCR test requests for patients with non-COVID clinical presentations. The median (interquartile range) turnaround time was 152 (123 - 184) minutes (n=36). Primary outcome (20 May - 19 June, n=315): The sensitivity and specificity were 95% and 97%, respectively, and the positive and negative predictive values 82.4% and 99.2%, respectively. Secondary outcomes (9 June - 8 August): The prevalence of COVID-19 infections among patients admitted to the multidisciplinary adult and paediatric non-COVID ICU was 2.4% (n=4/168). The mean (standard deviation) COVID-19 positive rate for the mobile laboratory during this period was 18.1% (6%). The prevalence of COVID-19 infections among medical staff in the non-COVID ICU was 3.1% (n=1/32CONCLUSIONS: The establishment of a mobile PCR laboratory staffed by non-laboratory healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic provided a rapid, accurate and clinically effective solution for emergency hospital admissions with non-COVID-19 presentations

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