Massey Scientist leads capacity building project for COVID-19 testing

Dr Collette Bromhead working at the Gribbles Veterinary lab with testing equipment in the background.

Dr Collette Bromhead working at the Gribbles Vet lab with testing equipment in the background.

In the early days of the national Level 4 lockdown, work was ramping up for one Massey staff member as she helped turn a veterinary laboratory into a COVID-19 testing facility.

Senior lecturer at the School of Health Sciences and registered medical laboratory scientist Dr Collette Bromhead was in early contact with her clinical colleagues, offering assistance and equipment to help with testing capacity.

Dr Bromhead received a request, via Professor Nigel French who coordinated Massey’s COVID-19 response, to lead the technical aspects of converting a veterinary laboratory over to molecular testing for SARS-2-CoV as part of a larger team for Wellington Hospital testing laboratory, Wellington SCL.

The project involved travelling to Palmerston North to physically reformat the laboratory, selecting and designing new testing protocols and converting existing equipment over to run these tests, according to quality standards. 

Dr Bromhead says at the time, Wellington SCL was getting more requests for testing than they could fulfil. “COVID-19 testing is still a very manual process compared to most laboratory tests, and they were getting more swabs than they could test. Another site was needed to share the burden of testing.”

The type of viral swabs used in SARS-2-CoV testing.

The type of viral swabs used in SARS-2-CoV testing.

As technical lead, Dr Bromhead carried out on-site validation and staff training as well as development of internal quality controls, standard operating protocols and reports for IANZ (International Accreditation New Zealand) accreditation.

She also provided equipment from her research lab to ensure the fastest turnaround to the project, which saw the new lab starting routine testing two weeks ago.

She says that the lab was given accreditation by IANZ and is running well.

“I am really grateful to have been included in a project that was part of the nationwide effort to stamp out COVID-19,” she says.


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