Application Seeks To Bring New Public Health Lab To Windsor

Tuesday September 29th, 2020

Posted at 11:06am

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Last updated: Tuesday September 29th, 1:01pm

The Windsor Essex County Health Unit is supporting an application to the province to bring a new public health laboratory to the region to support COVID-19 test processing and possibly other testing if the lab is made permanent.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, Medical Officer of Health for Windsor Essex says the Health Unit is supporting an application by a private third party proponent to the Ministry of Health to bring a public health lab back to Windsor and Essex County.

“That proposal has gone through to the province, we have supported it, the hospital has supported it, and Ontario Health has supported it,” he says.

Dr. Ahmed says a lab would help to support COVID-19 investigations conducted by the Health Unit.

“We need that, especially as we move into the second wave,” he says. “A quick turnaround of the testing is critically important for the work that is needed from the public health side to initiate investigations in a timely manner.”

Windsor’s old public health lab used to be located on Huron Church Road and closed in 2010 to make way for the Herb Gray Parkway.

Since then, samples for public-health related tests have been sent by courier to be processed outside of the region at other laboratories including London’s.

“We send a lot of samples outside of our community which always creates a delay,” says Theresa Marenette, CEO of the Windsor Essex County Health Unit.

She says testing conducted by the Health Unit that could be processed by a new lab includes water quality samples, beach testing samples, testing for sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis and chlamydia, and testing for influenza, among others.

Dr. Ahmed says a new facility would employ lab technicians and microbiologists but couldn’t say exactly how many jobs the facility could create as it would depend on the amount of automation with automatic testing machines. The old lab employed 21 people when it closed in 2010.

“Ultimately it’s the ministry who would approve that with some support directly from the proponent themselves and the setup that they are proposing,” Dr. Ahmed says.

When asked if the lab would remain after the pandemic, Marentette says they would “definitely advocate” for that.

“With our population and the work that is being done down here, we are of the size that could support a lab locally,” she says.

Dr. Ahmed says there is no exact timeline for the new lab, but that it would sooner, rather than later, if approved.

Windsor Regional Hospital Machine

In addition to the news about the application to bring a lab back to the region, the Health Unit announced Tuesday afternoon that Windsor Regional Hospital received provincial approval to purchase a GeneXpert machine that will deliver COVID-19 test results in less than an hour.

The Health Unit says Windsor Regional has indicated that they will be using the machine to test in-patients initially due to limited supply of cartridges.

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