Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, staying healthy through the upcoming flu season is more important now than ever.
This year, Sanford Health is tackling the virus in a bigger way than ever.
Sanford Laboratories, a series of state-of-the-art testing sites across six U.S. states, recently announced a 5,000-square-foot expansion to the Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based reference lab. Dan Ingemansen is the laboratory senior director, and says this addition is in response to the ongoing pandemic and upcoming respiratory season.
Although the reference lab opened in February, the pandemic heightened the crucial need for the laboratory to have more testing capabilities, and space.
“This particular space was never designed or equipped to respond to COVID the way we have. And, knowing that we’re going to be doing more and more testing, we needed to identify and design space around our response,” said Ingemansen.
Ingemansen says the central reference lab currently receives roughly 2,500 samples per day.
“We’re able to test those typically between 48 to 72 hours with time and collection.”
But, with the flu-season quickly approaching, Ingemansen knows the labs will be receiving even more samples each day, and will need even more space for testing.
“We’re entering unprecedented territory where our patients are going to be presenting to our providers with symptoms that could either be COVID-19 related or influenza A-B related. It’s important that we have diagnostic services that can differentiate the difference, so that way we can understand how to treat those patients,” said Ingemansen.
More space, more tests
As Ingemansen has said, current turnaround time for COVID-19 tests is 48-72 hours. He says this is an incredible improvement from the beginning of the pandemic when sending to outside facilities with results in eight to 12 days.
Even though Sanford Health has already made significant improvements, Ingemansen says there’s still room for even more.
“We’ve made significant progress in reducing our turnaround time, just based on the fact that we’ve had more supplies available. But, that 48 to 72 hour turnaround time, from my perspective, is not where we need to be. Our goal is to get this back to the bedside. Similar to how we’ve responded to influenza,” he said.
In order to meet those goals, the additional 5,000 square feet in the reference lab will be invaluable, says Ingemansen.
“It comes down to having available equipment, having available supplies, and having an appropriate space. But, also being able to have a trained workforce, willing to work around the clock as our team has up to this point in order to provide the quality turnaround times we provide today.”
Because of the potential for increased testing, Ingemansen says it’s critical for patients to receive flu shots.
“At the end of the day, it is crucially important that everyone receives an influenza vaccine on a yearly basis.”
Dedication of employees
Ingemansen says the response to the pandemic, both in the improvements of testing times and the lab expansion proves how dedicated everyone at Sanford Health is to providing top-of-the-line health care to anyone who needs it.
“For how well Sanford has responded, it comes back to the dedicated staffing that we have across the organization. Laboratory is getting quite a bit of the attention, but we also have to look at the providers, the nursing staff, and the entire organization.
“We could have never gotten to where we’ve been without our dedicated staff.”
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