Mackay Base Hospital’s new rapid testing pathology instrument dubbed the ‘Panther’ is set to boost local COVID-19 and other respiratory condition testing capacity.
The Hologic Panther Fusion can diagnose COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory conditions in approximately three hours from receipt of the specimen using molecular diagnostics which detect viral fragments.
The Pather uses Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing which is considered the most sensitive method for testing for COVID-19.
PCR testing amplifies viral genetic material by copying it over and over again so any trace of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be detected.
The state-of-the-art device is located in Pathology Queensland’s laboratory at Mackay Base Hospital and is valued at $275,000.
Chief Executive Lisa Davies Jones said the new machine meant more pathology samples could be tested in Mackay instead of Townsville.
When operating at full capacity the Panther is capable of testing approximately 750 samples a day.
Ms Davies Jones said faster turn-around-time for results would improve patient care and safety through more targeted therapy and treatment.
“Mackay HHS is a growing region and services a large population. Prior to having the Panther the Mackay Pathology Laboratory has only been able to offer PCR testing on limited pathogens using a small Point of Care analyser,” Ms Davies Jones said.
“The cost per test, and the limited supply of consumables to run the Point of Care PCR analysers meant that testing onsite was limited to urgent cases only.
“All routine samples had to be sent to Townsville or Brisbane Pathology Queensland laboratories, which delays the results, and therefore can sometimes delay treatment.
“Having a Panther at Mackay Base Hospital means all routine testing can now be performed onsite, resulting in faster turn-around-times for results,” she said.
In the unfortunate event of a positive COVID result, the earlier it is known, the earlier the Public Health Unit can intervene to help stop community transmission.
Ms Davies Jones said the Panther would process samples from around the health service including St Lawrence, Sarina, Proserpine, Bowen, Whitsunday Islands, Collinsville, Clermont, Moranbah, Middlemount and Dysart.
“The positive effect of having this machine will be felt beyond just Mackay which is great in our efforts to reduce the impact of respiratory conditions on our region.”