CEO of Laboratory Alliance of Central New York on the testing services it’s providing
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Timely testing can help healthcare workers provide more responsive treatment and protective measures for patients with COVID-19.
Until recently, it took up to three days to receive results to tests performed locally. Liverpool-based Laboratory Alliance of Central New York has been able to shorten that time. The lab is jointly owned by Crouse Health and St. Joseph’s Health. We spoke with Lab Alliance CEO Anne Marie Mullin.
Q. When did Lab Alliance begin processing COVID-19 tests?
A. We started that Tuesday, April 14.
Q. Who is receiving testing?
A. There’s a number of different companies manufacturing the tests. The tests we’re performing, like other companies’ tests, they’re not capable of making enough kits to meet the demand. We’re grateful for the orders we did receive. We don’t have an unlimited supply. We limit the tests to three groupings of patients: hospitalized patients of our two owners, Crouse Health and St. Joseph’s Health, the Crouse and St. Joseph’s healthcare workers with symptoms, and the ER patients of those.
Q. How many tests have you performed?
A. From Tuesday, April 14, through Thursday, April 16, we’ve processed approximately 120 tests.
Q. Is it a matter of your firm’s capacity or only the supply of tests available?
A. The test is performed at our main lab in Liverpool. Any other test requests for COVID received, we’re directing to the Wadsworth Laboratory, owned by the New York State Department of Health in Albany. That’s where all the specimens had been going until April 14. Their turn-around has been 24 to 36 hours. From the time the specimen is received in our laboratory in Liverpool, we’re looking at a two-hour turn-around time. That’s a great improvement. We’re not the only labs sending specimens to Wadsworth. They’ve been besieged with specimens. We have a relationship with a couple of courier companies that are delivering those specimens on a stat basis to Albany for testing. St. Joseph’s has a couple of urgent care locations. If there are any others coming to us, it would be from physician’s offices who are seeing patients they think might be symptomatic.
Q. Are you hiring additional people?
A. No, we’re capable of doing this with the staff we have. We’re doing it 24/7, Sunday through Saturday, all three shifts. We have 395 employees among three labs, corporate office and the 12 patient service centers performing the COVID assay. We employ 147 New York state-licensed personnel. We currently have 12 licensed laboratorians performing the COVID assay in our microbiology department at our operations center laboratory located in Electronics Business Park in Liverpool.
Q. Why was your lab selected to receive COVID-19 tests?
A. I was one of 28 lab executives contacted by the governor’s office March 10. There were 28 labs handpicked by the New York State Department of Health who oversees us and inspects us. They’re the ones to whom we have a license to operate. They reached out to gauge our interest and capability. They learned in early March there would be a great need and demand for tests and knew that the demand of tests would cause a great surge to Wadsworth Lab. They spoke with us to see if we had an interest and a capability. We said yes and reached out to current vendors that are making a test for COVID from whom we had existing pieces of equipment. We were waiting to see who had test kits available. We received test kits April 8. There was a team of many people across many departments involved in some respect involved in onboarding these tests.
Q. Why is a timely test important?
A. If someone’s presenting, they have result in two hours. If they receive positive results, they can jumpstart the process of notifying people of possible exposure, putting people in quarantine, which reduces the possibility of transmitting the virus to anyone else.
I want to give a huge shout out to all the staff that work so hard, 365 days of the year and 24 hours a day. All my colleagues are the hidden heroes of healthcare. I don’t want to draw attention away from providers on the frontline, but what the laboratory does is so vital. Seventy percent of the medical record is made of up of laboratory results. What the lab does is vital to the whole healthcare continuum. Our lab technicians are away from the public eye. The exceptional efforts of lab professionals are essential for public and patient health. I’m so proud of the team at Lab Alliance.