Interior Health CEO, Susan Brown (left) and Deborah Buszard, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBCO, stand in front of the new Seegen system, part of the advanced diagnostic PCR instrumentation gifted to the KGH micro-biology lab by the Colin and Lois Pritchard Foundation. —Image: contributed

Second specialized mircobiology suite donated to Kelowna General Hospital

Pritchard Foundation gift elevates KGH microbiology lab to rival best in Canada

  • Dec. 11, 2018 12:00 a.m.

Thanks to the generosity of The Colin and Lois Pritchard Foundation, the Larissa Yarr Medical Microbiology laboratory at Kelowna General Hospital has even greater capacity to accurately diagnose and treat this season’s nastiest viral influenza and gastro-intestinal bugs.

This fall, the Pritchard’s gifted a second suite of Polymerase Chain Reaction technologies to the lab, after donating the first in late 2016.

The highly advanced diagnostic instruments allow KGH microbiologists to detect and identify specific antibiotic resistance gene mutations, bacteria and viruses faster than ever before.

The gift will also support the Pritchard Foundation’s generous provision to UBC Okanagan’s Department of Biology to fund a four-month placement for two microbiology co-op students in the lab at KGH. Working under the mentorship of two of western Canada’s leading microbiologists, Dr. Edith Blondel-Hill and Dr. Amanda Wilmer, the students not only learn their specialty in a practical setting, but increase the lab’s capacity to undertake research on the PCR.

Before PCR came to KGH, most viral diagnostics were sent to Vancouver for testing in a reference facility, causing delays due to the transport required. PCR instrumentation has allowed for significantly increased capacity to test for viral illnesses directly at KGH. When time is of the essence, having immediate access to this kind of advanced technology dramatically impacts the clinical course of a patient.

“2017/18 was the heaviest influenza season in ten years”, said Wilmer, medical microbiologist and discipline director of Interior Health medical microbiology.

“We recorded significant improvement in turn-around time, with most testing being performed in one day. For reference, these tests would have taken three to four days before we had PCR.”

The addition of the newest PCR equipment will enable the lab to increase its overall testing capacity, allowing microbiology lab technologists to run multiple different types of specimens at the same time, all while maintaining the same staffing levels and ensuring that diagnostic capacity is not compromised should one of the instruments fail.

“With the acquisition of this equipment, the microbiology lab at KGH now rivals any of the large tertiary hospitals in Canada in terms of our capacity for rapid and accurate diagnosis,” said Doug Rankmore, CEO of the KGH Foundation.

“The Pritchard Foundation has been instrumental in making this happen. We are incredibly grateful for their leadership and generosity.”

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