January 15th, 2021

Rapid testing expanding to include vulnerable Albertans and rural communities

By Herald on December 17, 2020.

The Alberta government has announced that rapid testing will be expanded across the province to reach Albertans in homeless shelters, long-term care facilities and remote rural communities.

Starting Thursday, rapid point-of-care testing will begin at long-term care and designated supportive living facilities in the Edmonton Zone using dedicated mobile testing centres.

Mobile testing centres are expected to be ready to deploy in Calgary Zone starting next week. Mobile testing centres will be focused first on outbreak sites with expansion to long-term care and designated supportive living facilities outside Edmonton and Calgary zones is expected to follow shortly after.

“Alberta’s COVID-19 testing program is critical to managing and preventing the spread of the virus in our communities. Bringing rapid point-of-care testing directly to the locations where it can help protect the health of the most vulnerable Albertans is an important addition to our provincial testing system,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro in a press release.

The expansion of rapid testing systems to new locations across the province are to provide faster and more convenient testing, helping to identify and isolate positive cases more rapidly than previously possible.

The province says that more than 1,000 people have received the rapid tests at assessment centres and hospital locations to date, including 76 positive cases who were notified about their result in a matter of hours.

Expansion of the rapid-testing clinical pilot began during the week of Dec. 7 with the deployment of systems at the first non-Alberta Health Services sites – Calgary’s Drop-In Centre and Edmonton’s isolation facility – where staff nurses have been trained to use the systems with homeless shelter clients who are difficult to reach through the existing COVID-19 testing program. Work is underway to bring the systems to more homeless shelters in urban and rural locations in the coming weeks.

Further expansion also includes the addition of rapid point-of-care testing at 25 rural hospitals in the Alberta Health Services North, Central and South Zones through the rest of December and early January, enhancing the testing system in more remote rural communities that currently require all patient samples to be transported to centralized public laboratories for analysis.

Systems will be deployed in 25 rural hospital sites across the province in the coming weeks, including acute care hospitals in Cardston, Pincher Creek, Brooks.

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