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New ‘Panther’ in Wide Bay means faster COVID-19 results and earlier intervention

A state-of-the-art new pathology testing machine has been installed at Hervey Bay Hospital, boosting testing capacity across Wide Bay and reducing waits for results for COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

Member for Hervey Bay Adrian Tantari said the new “Panther” analyser at the hospital’s Pathology Queensland laboratory was a great addition to Wide Bay’s world-class health care, including its ongoing response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to investing in health care and services to make sure people in the Wide Bay region have access to the best possible care and facilities,” Mr Tantari said.

“Having this state-of-the-art machine, which is worth more than $275,000, will make a huge difference to our community.

“The new Hologic Panther Fusion can diagnose COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory conditions in approximately three hours.

“When purring along at full capacity, the Panther is capable of testing about 750 samples a day.

“What this means is that locals will see faster turnaround times for testing results, which will make sure that people get the right treatment in the fastest possible manner.”

While located in Hervey Bay, the Panther will process tests for virtually all Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service (WBHHS) facilities, including those in Maryborough, Bundaberg and the North Burnett region.

In most cases this will mean patients will receive their results within 24 hours, and in some cases may even have a same-day turnaround.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath said the Palaszczuk Government would continue to deliver a strong COVID-19 health response.

“The delivery of the new Panther analyser to the Wide Bay community is an important part of the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to ensure that Queensland’s health system remains strong while we manage the coronavirus pandemic,” Minister D’Ath said.

“Equipment such as the Panther ensures faster results and greater certainty for patients – and in the unfortunate event of a positive COVID result, earlier intervention from the Public Health Unit to help stop community transmission.

“Outside of COVID, it will also be an important tool for public health teams in responding quickly to contain outbreaks of respiratory illnesses in vulnerable settings, such as aged care facilities and correctional centres.”

The Panther uses Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing, which is considered the most sensitive method for testing for COVID-19.

PCR testing amplifies viral genetic material by copying it over and over again so any trace of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be detected.

WBHHS Chief Executive Debbie Carroll said the new analyser meant almost all pathology samples from its facilities could be tested locally in a public pathology lab instead of being transported to Brisbane, except in extreme surge periods.

“Wide Bay HHS serves a growing and ageing region, and up until now our ability to perform PCR testing has been limited,” Ms Carroll said.

“Not only is the Panther a crucial addition to our service capability while we’re responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will also be of long-term benefit when carrying out other pathology testing such as for influenza, rhinovirus and other respiratory illnesses and infections.

“We’re also strongly driven by a desire to improve the patient experience. In the context of COVID-19, this has meant a lot of work to provide accessible and efficient drive-through fever clinic testing to ensure we’re removing as many barriers to testing as possible.

“We understand that some people may be put off by the need to isolate after a test – which is such a crucial part of the public health response.

“So with our fever clinics operating at full steam, faster turnaround times thanks to the new Panther, and automatic SMS alerts for negative results, we’re doing our utmost to make COVID-19 testing a simple and quick process for our community and visitors.

“Even better, the positive effect of having this machine will be felt not just now, but well into the future as we continue our efforts to reduce the impact of respiratory conditions on our region.”

Last updated: 28 January 2021