New equipment boosts molecular testing capability and career pathways

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Toowoomba Hospital is now home to a state-of-the-art Roche Cobas 6800 multiplex analyser.

As part of the Queensland Government’s COVID-19 uplift investment program, the Roche analyser is the second molecular testing unit installed at Toowoomba Hospital over the last two years.

Pathology Queensland Toowoomba Group Laboratory Manager, Neil Dawson said the importance of timely and accurate diagnostic testing has been highlighted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Throughout the suppression phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, testing and analysing those PCR samples was absolutely critical in preventing community transmission of the virus.

“We have built an analysing capability locally that is a game changer, not only in the detection of COVID-19, but in any future molecular testing that we need to undertake.”

The addition of the new molecular analyser to the Toowoomba Hospital will allow up to 1000 PCR samples to be analysed, with the ability to surge to over 2000 per day.

“Our staff have analysed over 125,000 COVID-19 PCR tests with an average turnaround time of 14 hours, which is really an incredible achievement. I couldn’t be prouder of this team and their willingness to learn and respond throughout the pandemic,” Mr Dawson said.

Dr Petra Derrington, Chief Pathologist of Pathology Queensland, said the addition of molecular testing in regional areas has allowed new career pathways for locals.

“These machines not only allow us to attract highly qualified specialist, but we now have an opportunity to upskill and impart this new knowledge to the local workforce within Darling Downs Health.”

Mr Dawson said it was quite the logistical effort to install the new machine within the existing Pathology Queensland workspace.

“We created plywood templates of each individual piece of the machine and rehearsed the install to ensure each piece could fit through the corridors and doorways.

“There was one point in the journey to install the machine where we had about 5mm of leeway – it was a tight fit!”

The Roche Cobas 6800 has been operating for two weeks and joins the Panther Fusion installed in 2021 and rounds out the molecular testing capability for Darling Downs Health.