Zurik: Hundreds of tests taken in the early days of Coronavirus testing are still outstanding

One Louisiana woman was tested on March 15 and has still not received her test result

Zurik: Hundreds of tests taken in the early days of Coronavirus testing are still outstanding
(Source: AP Photo/John Minchillo/AP)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Testing has been a crucial focus of determining the true scope of the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, but FOX 8 has learned hundreds of tests performed at Ochsner screening sites are still outstanding more than a week after patients were tested.

On March 15, Kelly, who asked we not use her last name, had a fever and a dry cough -- two common symptoms of the coronavirus known as COVID-19. The illness has spread rapidly across the state, leaving thousands of Louisianians sick since it was first detected in the state on March 9.

She sought to get tested at an Ochsner site in Mandeville set up to screen patients for possible coronavirus symptoms. She was tested at the site for COVID-19.

“There was a four-day window of testing where it was sent off to the Mayo Clinic and then the Mayo Clinic wasn’t able to process those tests because they were overwhelmed,” She recalled being told when she inquired about the test.

Kelly was told that the Mayo Clinic Lab sent the test to another lab and the results would trickle in.

“Mine never trickled in,” She said, and she was told, “The test is probably gone."

While she waited, her husband, James, waited too. He was told he could not return to work until his wife’s test results returned.

“As soon as she started exhibiting symptoms, I talked with my boss and he said the same thing, let’s just wait until we get the test results,” James said.

FOX 8 reached out to both Ochsner Health System and the Mayo Clinic to find out just what happened to Kelly’s test.

Ochsner became the first healthcare system to be able to test in-house for COVID-19 on Saturday, March 21. But they had COVID-19 screening sites already in operation and those tests were sent to the Louisiana Department of Health and commercial labs, including the Mayo Clinic.

“We are currently waiting on nearly 1,300 test results from Mayo [Clinic],” Ochsner Health said in a statement.

Mayo Clinic said they forwarded all COVID-19 testing from clients around the country to Quest Diagnostics for testing, including specimens from Ochsner Health System.

“This arrangement is a common business practice in the laboratory industry when testing is not available by a client’s primary reference laboratory,” Mayo Clinic said in a statement. “Any specimens received prior to March 19th that were not for Mayo Clinic patients would have been sent to Quest for processing.”

Both Ochsner and Mayo Clinic said since their in-house testing capabilities went online late last week, result delays have decreased, with both reporting that results are now possible within 24 hours.

Experts say with so many tests still outstanding its still impossible to know the true current extent of the Coronavirus.

FULL STATEMENT FROM OCHSNER HEALTH:

We understand the local and national frustration with COVID-19 testing and the stress this causes for patients awaiting their test results from commercial testing. Delays in COVID-19 test results from commercial labs are occurring across the country. This is not unique to Ochsner Health. All hospital systems across Louisiana and nationwide are experiencing this delay.

At Ochsner, we recognized the need for additional testing and a quicker turnaround time for test results. Our lab team worked around the clock to develop in-house testing, and on Saturday March 21, Ochsner became the first healthcare organization in Louisiana with in-house testing capabilities. We started testing 300 patients per day with same-day results and are in the process of setting up in-house testing at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport. We are also expanding our lab capabilities at Ochsner Medical Center- Jefferson Highway and hope to ramp up to 1,400 tests per day next week.

Prior to Ochsner’s in-house testing on March 21, our facilities utilized the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) and then commercial labs, including Mayo and Quest, to test and care for as many people as possible. We are currently waiting on nearly 1,300 test results from Mayo.

--- Ochsner Health

FULL STATEMENT FROM THE MAYO CLINIC:

Over the past several weeks, the testing capacity for COVID-19 has evolved rapidly across the United States, and at Mayo Clinic. As Mayo Clinic Laboratories was developing its own COVID-19 test, we arranged a referral option so our clients could access COVID-19 testing. Prior to Mayo’s test launching, Mayo forwarded all COVID-19 testing from clients around the country to Quest Diagnostics including specimens from Ochsner. This arrangement is a common business practice in the laboratory industry when testing is not available by a client’s primary reference laboratory. This is done as a convenience to clients so orders and results can be sent electronically. While we cannot comment on any specific patient’s specimen without the patient’s authorization, any specimens received prior to March 19th that were not for Mayo Clinic patients would have been sent to Quest for processing. When test results are available, they are communicated back to Mayo Clinic Laboratories so that we could electronically deliver results to our clients. We are aware that many laboratories across the country have backlogs due to the number of tests being ordered and the shortages of supplies needed to run these tests.

On March 19, we announced that we had acquired new equipment that would allow us to process all of those tests in-house, as well as additional capacity from state laboratories and other healthcare institutions. We closely monitor the location of every specimen and have not lost any COVID-19 specimens being tested at Mayo. Our current turnaround time for testing processed at Mayo Clinic Laboratories is 24 hours.

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