March 23, 2020

Pathology at the time of COVID-19: Heroes from the background

Our Northern Pathology Victoria staff have been working hard since the COVID-19 outbreak, making sure all specimens are processed and delivered timely to the testing authorities.

Sam Djukic, Pre-analytical Manager, explained that Pathology is picking up the specimens from the Fever Clinic, processing and forwarding to Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) for testing.

“Then we have to send those samples away, which takes additional time. In between, we are wiping down the benches and that takes time as well for our staff,” he explained.

Shiraz Lubke, Operations Manager, added on Sunday, we had 80 tests for COVID-19.

“If you multiply that number by three minutes that it takes per test to do the data entry, it is clear how much of additional work has to be distributed among our current staff, as we don’t have any extra staff,” she said.

Collection staff gather the samples Monday-Friday and, on the weekends, specimen collection picks up the specimens. That enables the Pathology team to get smaller batches through and get them to VIDRL quicker.

“When it comes to COVID-19 testing, samples from health care workers and critically ill patients are coming back within 24 hours. It can be three days for other cases at this stage,” Shiraz said.

The Pathology staff are also facing situations when they have to prioritise which tests to focus on first.

“These specimens are a high priority. The pre-analytical staff have to prioritise what to do first. It’s putting extra pressure on the front-line staff,” she added.

Both Shiraz and Sam see the role of Pathology as, “get the samples to VIDRL as quick as we can, get the results back as quick as we can, and stay calm”.

“We are handling it well, we have risen to the challenge and our team at the front end is doing a magnificent job. We just need to stay calm, keep working together and realise that our bit is really important,” she added.