By Nick Morrison
On Monday, 6th of July, I had a rare opportunity to visit Balfour hospital’s Laboratory.
The laboratory is where blood and urine samples are analysed. Then to see Covid 19 samples being analysed before our eyes takes rarity to a whole new level.
Before entering the laboratory we were all equipped with their standard PPE, this consisted of a white coat up to the neck, a disposable plastic apron with sleeves and gloves.
Our hosts were Eamonn Keyes, the Lab Manager, and Lorna Wilson Microbiologist.
These two professionals took us through the analysis of a Covid 19 sample, which we saw happening. Then they took all the questions that the media put to them without hesitation.
Your reporter (a former laboratory worker for several years) was impressed by the professionalism and rigorous adherence to procedure that he saw.
No one else is allowed in that part of the lab whilst testing is in progress. The samples are opened in a fume hood with constant air flow across the samples and away from the operator.
I noted the “tell tales” at the top of the hood, a visual check that the hood is working, didn’t have those in my day!
The samples are transported in the hospital in a stout box inside of which is a cardboard box, inside of which is a plastic jar shock resistant cushioning wrapping and inside a double bag is the actual sample.
When Lorna is handling the samples she gets through 4 sets of gloves and at one time she is holding the sample with one hand whilst typing in data to the analyser with the other. All to avoid potential contamination of surfaces.
The procedure takes about two hours or so and thus it’s a “same day service” . This is a huge improvement on having to fly the samples to the mainland with its potential problems of leakage in transit probably caused by atmospheric pressure changes in the aircraft.
The Lab analyses all the samples taken by Orkney’s Covid Assessment Center, and Eamonn spoke highly of the people in there as well as those referred by Doctors. and patients about to go through surgery.