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Rapid testing expands to include vulnerable Albertans

Rapid testing will be expanded across the province to reach Albertans in homeless shelters, long-term care facilities and remote rural communities.

Starting Dec. 18, 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 the week of Dec. 21. Mobile testing centres will be focused first on outbreak sites. 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.” Tyler Shandro, Health Minister

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

“Alberta Precision Laboratories and Alberta Health Services have undertaken significant work to evaluate the effectiveness of rapid point-of-care testing systems and how they can add the most value to our province-wide COVID-19 testing program. Our integrated provincial lab service allows us to quickly implement and scale up the use of new equipment and processes for the benefit of all Albertans.” Mauro Chies, board chair, Alberta Precision Laboratories and vice-president Cancer Care Alberta and Clinical Support Services for Alberta Health Services

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.

“Having COVID-19 testing in-house is incredibly valuable for us to monitor the health of our clients and protect our staff and the public as we manage outbreaks at our facility. I extend my gratitude and thanks to Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services for recognizing the need to prioritize our community’s homeless population and for the government’s continued support throughout this pandemic.” Sandra Clarkson, executive director, Calgary Drop-In Centre

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.

Alberta’s government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting lives and livelihoods with precise measures to bend the curve, sustain small businesses, and protect Alberta’s health-care system. Quick facts

  • Alberta has completed 2.5 million tests on more than 1.5 million people since March 2020.

  • Both rapid testing systems are being used on patients who are within the first seven days of expressing symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Alberta Health Services has received more than 800,000 rapid tests from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

  • Systems will be deployed in 25 rural hospital sites in the coming weeks. These include the acute care hospitals in: Cardston, Pincher Creek, Brooks, Oyen, Wetaskiwin, Drayton Valley, Drumheller, Rocky Mountain House, Castor, Coronation, Wabasca, Edson, Cold Lake, St. Paul, Elk Point, Peace River, Westlock, Barrhead, Provost, Lac La Biche, Camrose, Wainwright, Hinton, Two Hills and Vegreville.


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