The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is looking to the private sector to clear a growing backlog of COVID-19 testing.
The SHA announced Tuesday it is partnering with Quantum Genetix to provide user-paid tests for asymptomatic people who need proof of a negative COVID-19 test for work or travel.
Quantum Genetix, an agricultural technology company with an office in Saskatoon, says getting the test will cost clients $150 each.
The hope is that a private partnership can take pressure off the burdened public system.
“Our Laboratory Medicine team has been working incredibly hard to provide test results in a timely manner,” SHA executive director of laboratory medicine Lenore Howey said in a statement.
“However, given the high demand for testing and our focus on prioritizing testing for people with symptoms before people or travelers (sic) without symptoms, it’s been challenging to provide timely results for asymptomatic travelers (sic), especially within the tight timelines required by airlines and international destinations,” Howey wrote.
The partnership comes after months of reports of laboratory staff struggling to balance the growing demand for COVID-19 testing with other routine services they provide.
The laboratory had a goal of being able to process 4,000 COVID-19 tests every day in the fall. They have exceeded that number twice in November.
A source familiar with the matter says the health authority is also considering limiting laboratory work to essential tests only, as was the case in April.
Technologists prioritize processing swabs taken from symptomatic patients and close contacts who are more likely to test positive for the virus. But workers in the province’s laboratories report a growing number of tests taken from asymptomatic people as well that are also returning positive.
The SHA has announced a number of measures to ease the burden including hiring the equivalent of more than 70 full-time positions.
Postmedia contacted Quantum Genetix last week and on Monday to ask about its partnership with the SHA and whether the company would begin offering COVID-19 testing. The company twice declined to comment.
The company’s webpage says it will not provide medically assisted swabbing but will provide swabs and collection devices directly to customers. It aims to return results in between 24 and 48 hours.
If a client tests positive, an SHA release says that persons information would be forwarded to the health authority and their results would be verified at the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory in Regina.
The authority says the company could process as many as 350 COVID-19 tests a day by the end of December.
The SHA says its also interested in supporting local businesses who want to buy their own COVID-19 testing platform to routinely test their employees.
“Interested employers can pursue a collaborative agreement with SHA Laboratory Medicine to ensure quality testing and reporting of results on their platforms to meet lab licensing, regulatory, reporting and data capture requirements in a coordinated agreement. This will assist in keeping employees safe as well as maintaining business continuity,” reads a release.