Health systems still limiting COVID-19 tests due to supply shortages

Leaders at hospitals across the country have had to cut COVID-19 testing in recent weeks because of a shortage of reagents needed to process tests, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Mark Steadham, CEO of Morris (Ill.) Hospital and Healthcare Centers, told the Journal that his facility can now conduct about a third of the number of tests per week it could in the summer. The facility has only been getting a third, sometimes less, of its allocation of Abbott rapid testing kits due to a reagent shortage.

An Abbott spokesperson told the Journal the company is working to expand its capacity and supply as many tests as possible. 

Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers is the only provider of COVID-19 tests in Grundy County, Ill., and it has become difficult to tell how widely the virus is spreading there, Mr. Steadham told the Journal. The facility is now limiting testing to patients who are admitted or are referred with COVID-19 symptoms.

Michael Dacey, president of Riverside Health System in Newport News, Va., told the Journal that the health system had to cut the number of tests it was conducting by about 20 percent because of a shortage of supplies, including reagents. The health system is focusing on administering tests to admitted patients. 

Eric Young, director of laboratory services for Sentara Healthcare, based in Norfolk, Va., told the Journal the reagent shortage forced the health system to shut down a testing program this summer in mostly Black and Hispanic communities, and it hasn't been able to restart the program because of supply shortages. 

While the overall number of COVID-19 tests distributed around the country has grown from  15.8 million in April to 37.6 million last month, shortages of supplies such as reagents have continued due to regional case increases, schools reopening and new testing requirements, medical experts told the Journal. In a survey conducted by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry in August, 67 percent of labs reported having issues getting both reagents and test kits, the Journal reported. 

As flu season takes hold, supply shortages are likely to persist, as most flu tests rely on the same supplies and personnel as COVID-19 tests, according to the Journal

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