Mercy Hospital medical scientists race against clock to meet Covid-19 challenge

For the medical scientists at Cork's Mercy Hospital, it was a race against the clock.
Mercy Hospital medical scientists race against clock to meet Covid-19 challenge
Dr. James O’Connor, senior medical scientist and Liz Fitzpatrick, chief medical scientist working on Covid-19 sample preparation in the microbiology laboratory at the Mercy University Hospital, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

For the medical scientists at Cork’s Mercy Hospital, it was a race against the clock.

The challenge, how to get a test for Covid-19 up and running from scratch.

But despite the long odds, the longs days and weeks, the scale of the task and the pressure in the face of a growing pandemic, brought out the best in people.

Medical scientists at the hospital’s microbiology department were among the legions of laboratory staff across the country to react quickly to the evolving pandemic and ensure that a test was available to detect the virus.

What would normally take six months was achieved in a much shorter period of time, chief medical scientist, Liz Fitzpatrick, and senior medical scientist, Dr James O’Connor, explained.

Fortunately the Mercy Hospital had the necessary equipment at its disposal to enable the team of medical scientists to firstly validate a test for Covid-19 and then get the test up and running.

The hospital laboratory, James said, was lucky to be able to “adapt the technology to good effect”.

The race to get Covid-19 testing going was aided by a network of hospital laboratories and other labs in the public and private sector collaborating and sharing information and supplies.

Teaching and research labs at CIT and UCC helped out with reagent supplies, as did pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, who helped to bridge a critical gap in lysis buffer.

Liz said in her 35-year career she had never encountered anything like the challenges presented by the pandemic: “It’s been challenging but it’s been extremely rewarding as well to be able to play a part in this international crisis and hopefully make some difference in the fight against coronavirus”.

Since going live with Covid-19 testing on March 24 the lab is providing a round-the-clock dedicated service that can turn around results within 24 hours.

In addition to running Covid-19 tests for patients and staff at the Mercy Hospital the lab also runs tests for Kerry General Hospital, South Infirmary, and Mater Private hospitals.

Covid-19 tests will become the norm for the micro lab into the future as the test is now part of routine pre-assessment for patients undergoing surgery. “Covid-19 testing is here to stay. It’s going to be part of our routine workload going forward,” Liz said.

While there were challenges along the way, there were also many rewards and the team of medical scientists say they were buoyed by the “extraordinary” good will and support shown by staff and members of the public and business community.

“It has brought out the best in everybody,” Liz said, adding thanks for the ongoing support.

Members of the public showed their support by sending in postcards, which are displayed on a notice board at the hospital, while local businesses lifted spirits with deliveries of cakes, sandwiches, and other food.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.