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Saranya Arnoldo, Clinical Biochemist & Wayne Chiu, Supervisor/Charge Tech, Microbiology Lab


July 27, 2020 - Hospital Family Story, Stories

When a patient is suspected of having COVID-19, getting a rapid diagnosis allows the care team to begin appropriate treatment sooner, and gives concerned patients and family members answers earlier. Thanks to donor support, patients admitted to Osler hospitals are now able to get test results within hours instead of days.

Wayne Chiu is the Supervisor/Charge Tech for Osler’s Microbiology Lab. That means he maintains the smooth operation of the lab and works closely with the medical microbiologist, senior techs and designates on improvement initiatives. A major initiative during the pandemic was the acquisition of new lab equipment that enables Osler to process test swabs onsite to detect the Coronavirus.

Before the equipment could be used to accurately process swabs, the team required considerable training on the new process, which was much more manual than most other tests conducted in the lab. And, to meet the growing demand from the pandemic, time was of the essence.

“This whole project was extra challenging because we had to learn it, we had to implement it and we had to train the team while also trying to validate the test at the same time,” says Wayne. “Typically, we do these things one at a time, but because of the pandemic, we had to get it all done quickly while maintaining confidence in the results.”

Dr. Saranya Arnoldo is Osler’s Clinical Biochemist. She was instrumental in setting up Osler’s COVID testing and helping the lab team navigate the steep learning curve. Microbiology isn’t a part of her usual day-to-day, but her background in high throughput molecular genetic testing made her the perfect fit to oversee the validation and implementation, and to make sure the tests ran smoothly. She says the team ramped up very quickly to bring this essential service to Osler.

“I was so impressed with the teamwork,” says Dr. Arnoldo “If you imagine, from a group of technologists who never had experience with hands-on molecular testing, they have become … I would call them experts in their field. They’ve become more comfortable and confident in what they do.”

Each day, more than 1,000 COVID-19 swabs are collected at Osler’s COVID-19 Assessment Centres. These tests are sent to outside laboratories with capacity to process higher volumes of tests. The target for testing at Osler is up to 2,000 tests per day by the end of September. In the meantime, the lab at Osler is able to meet testing needs for inpatients.

“We're very happy that we're able to make a difference,” says Wayne. “Knowing that quality results will make a difference to a worried health care worker or a worried family member, just to have that result a little bit quicker—that motivates me.”

Dr. Arnoldo agrees. “If what we offer in the laboratory can greatly impact patient care—that is rewarding. And those little things that we do—even if it's behind the scenes—we are all proud of it. The staff are so engaged, they are so energized and they are still willing to learn and that teamwork is also rewarding.”