Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health develops COVID-19 testing to be used for hospitalized patients and health care workers

The number of tests that can be performed daily could be up to 1,000.

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Clinical Genomics and Advanced Technology Director Gregory J. Tsongalis, PhD of Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

LEBANON, NH – Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s (DHMC) laboratory is now able to test for Novel Coronavirus n2019-CoV, the virus which causes the COVID-19 respiratory illness.

Building on the expertise of the DHMC laboratory for Clinical Genomics and Advanced Technology (CGAT) and the Microbiology laboratory, testing became available on Wednesday March 18. Implementing this testing required complex evaluations and validations of new testing protocols set forth by the FDA and CDC.

The number of tests that can be performed daily could be up to 1,000, but because of the ongoing shortages of test collection supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), DHMC is limited to testing only hospitalized patients within the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system and healthcare workers, including first responders, who have direct contact with patients. Once fully operational over the next week to ten days, the turnaround time from test to results should provide results to patients within 24 hours or less.

“Our testing capability continues to grow and evolve, and being able to test here at DHMC allows us to more rapidly screen patients and make best use of our resources,” said Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health Chief Clinical Officer Edward J. Merrens, MD. “We also believe the ability to test here will help relieve pressure on the New Hampshire state laboratory, enabling the state to assist other hospitals. Our priority remains to care for our sickest patients and support those who care for them.”

In other news from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health:

  • More than 1,500 members of the D-H staff have been trained in the proper wearing and safe use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), greatly expanding the number of staff in place to work with increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases.
  • Additionally, more staff are being trained in the use of mechanical ventilators, to ensure adequate staffing for patients who will require ventilation.
  • Donations of PPE – masks, gloves, gowns, face shields and other protective equipment – continue to stream in from the community to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health. These donations will supplement what we have here, and will help us continue to keep our staff safe as we work to meet this challenge.” says Supply Chain Manager David Coombs.
  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock volunteers have joined a national movement of volunteers who have started to sew masks for hospital staff and patients. DHMC is preparing kits with fabric and elastic for local pick-up and launched a website with directions on how to sew the masks. “Sewing masks gives them, and others across New Hampshire and Vermont, the opportunity to band together as a community to serve something bigger than ourselves, which is what our volunteers do every day,” noted Kristin Roth, Director of Volunteer Services at DHMC.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health reminds the community that anyone who has symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath should self-isolate at home. The recommendation for the duration of home isolation period is at least seven days from the onset of symptoms, and at least three days of no fever, and resolution of symptoms. It is recommended that others in the home also quarantine during this time to help limit spread. If, however, patients at any time feel that their situation is worsening and might require hospitalization, they should call their health care provider or call their local emergency department.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health is planning now for the long term, to ensure our ability to best care for our most vulnerable patients when most needed.

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