Bronson Healthcare opens flexible testing lab in time to help with COVID-19

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Kalamazoo series and our ongoing COVID-19 coverage. If you have a story of how the community is responding to the pandemic please let us know here.

Tests for COVID-19 that had to be sent out of state and required more than a week to process when the pandemic started last spring, can now be done in-house at Kalamazoo's Bronson Healthcare, with results available the same day.
That is a result of the flexibility the Bronson Testing Lab has gained since its main testing laboratory was relocated into a new 55,000-square-foot, full-service facility at 400 John St.
“The concept of adaptability has recently proven its value, as the Bronson lab team was able to adapt existing platforms to support COVID-19 testing,” the healthcare group stated in a press release. “Four COVID testing platforms were quickly created to support both polymerase chain reaction testing and antibody testing.”
Polymerase chain reaction is a method used to “amplify” small segments of DNA in order to have a large enough amount to study. It allows professionals to use a very small DNA sample and quickly make millions or billions of copies of it.
The new Bronson Lab Testing facility is located on the property between South Burdick and John streets that was previously home to the Kalamazoo Gazette.  As a full-service testing laboratory, it expects to provide a wide range of clinical services to outpatient clinics, Bronson system hospitals, medical practices, other care providers, and healthcare facilities in southwest Michigan. According to information provided by Bronson Healthcare, the new lab does not collect specimens from patients. It processes orders it receives from lab draw sites.
The new facility has three floors with space for clinical operations as well as dedicated areas for education, offices, and meetings. The structure was designed by Tower Pinkster architectural and engineering firm with a focus on modularity and flexibility of use, and an eye toward being adaptable to changing needs. It is also designed to employ a streamlined end-to-end process “that improves efficiency and turnaround time,” according to Bronson.
The facility is staffed by 12 board-certified and clinical pathology physicians as well as certified clinical laboratory scientists, phlebotomists, cytologists, histologists, lab assistants, and pathology assistants. It is being marketed to provide a comprehensive range of services, including: Chemistry, coagulation, cytology, dermatopathology, hematology, histology, immunology, microbiology, molecular diagnostics, pathology, result reporting, specimen processing, urinalysis and blood bank services.
“Our new lab has the flexibility to handle not only present needs but also expected future growth as laboratory science continues to provide expanding diagnostic possibilities,” says Lois Van Enk, system director of Bronson Laboratory Services, in a prepared statement. “With over 300 staff who complete more than 3.5 million orders per year, we look forward to having more space and new technology to support this important work.”
More information about the lab is available at the Bronson website here. 
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Read more articles by Al Jones.

Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.