BOSTON (CBS) – It is a critical rapid test for COVID-19 called Cepheid that gives heathcare workers results in about 45 minutes. Used when admitting patients at hospitals, the I-Team has learned it is in short supply at Brigham & Women’s.
Trish Powers is an operating room nurse. “It’s huge,” Powers said. “We need the ability to know who is COVID and who is not.”
Administrators sounding the alarm in a memo to staff claiming the “test supply is tenuous” and that the hospital “nearly exhausted its supply on several occasions” going on say “we do not anticipate…our supply will improve in the near future.”
“It is concerning for people who especially work in the emergency room or trauma units like I do in the ORs because it changes how we give care if we don’t know if they have COVID,” Powers said. “We have to treat the patient as they have it until we know differently.”
Nurses say without test results, they have to use precious PPE gearing up with N95 masks, face shields and gowns to treat incoming patients.
Kelly Morgan is a labor and delivery nurse. “If we are going to go back and treat everybody as if they are positive then we are going to eventually run out of PPE and that’s not a good plan,” Morgan said.
For patients who do turn out to be positive for COVID, nurses say not getting rapid test results could delay treatment.
Powers told the I-Team, “If we know the patient is definitely COVID we can get those therapeutics into the patient earlier and hopefully the patient will not get as sick or even die.”
The hospital is telling staff to ration the rapid tests and only use them when they have to. Suggesting using another COVID test which gives results in 4-6 hours. The Brigham said the shortage is due to limited production and allocation of resources – and is predicting a surge of COVID patients in the coming weeks.
“I don’t fully believe we are prepared,” Kelly Morgan said. “I think the hospitals have a plan in place, but it hasn’t gone as far as they needed to go.”
Statement from Brigham & Women’s Hospital:
“The nationwide shortage of Cepheid tests does not pose a patient or staff safety issue. We are using alternative testing platforms. If a patient requiring an urgent procedure has a COVID-19 result pending, staff are safely able to provide care using the appropriate personal protective equipment. Staff do not delay emergent surgeries to wait for COVID-19 test results.”