AHS enters partnership securing rapid response COVID-19 test

The technology is expected to help AHS provide additional, more expedient testing for COVID-19 in rural and remote communities.

Spartan Bioscience rapid-testing device for COVID-19. Photo courtesy of AHS

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Albertans will soon have fast and convenient access to COVID-19 testing kits.

Alberta Health Services entered into a partnership with Spartan Bioscience this past week, promising to soon provide a widely available rapid response test kit. Spartan, a  Canadian technology company, is in the late stages of developing a device that will be able to confirm test results for the COVID-19 virus in less than one hour.

“The technology is expected to help AHS provide additional, more expedient testing for COVID-19 in rural and remote communities, such as Indigenous communities, by eliminating the need for lab samples to travel to the nearest lab, which can be a logistical challenge,” AHS said in a release.

AHS will receive 250 handheld devices as well as 100,000 testing kits as part of the $9.5-million contract. The resources will be distributed to health centres outside of Calgary and Edmonton.

Health Canada is expected to make a decision on approval for the kits within the next few weeks. If approved the first shipment of kits will arrive in May. AHS said they will validate test protocols and accuracy before the new technology is deployed, but has acted quickly to ensure the test kits are available in the province once approval is received.

“Alberta has been one of the fastest jurisdictions in the world for testing of COVID-19. However, the threat to the health of all Albertans remains. We have recognized a gap in our testing and I am pleased AHS is working swiftly with industry to find ways to ensure rapid testing for the virus is accessible for people in rural and remote communities,” said Alberta minister of health Tyler Shandro.“This investment will ensure we can maintain our rapid pace in testing and alleviate pressures on our front-line workers with quick result confirmations.”

The tests will be used in addition to the current lab testing being undertaken by AHS. This will relieve stress particularly on areas of the province where access to larger labs is an issue.

“COVID-19 places significantly increased demand on our lab capacity,” said AHS President and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu. “This new technology will supplement our current testing efforts and give AHS the ability to provide timely testing and results to more Albertans in more communities. This will help guide appropriate care and isolation, speed up our contact tracing, and reduce the risk of further spread.”