Nunavut to deploy COVID-19 testing devices in 5 more hamlets
Health Department looks at Abbott ID NOW device
Nunavut’s Department of Health plans to deploy a new rapid-testing device for COVID-19 in five communities, the deputy minister of health, Ruby Brown, told MLAs Thursday at a committee of the whole meeting.
Those communities are Arviat, Gjoa Haven, Igloolik, Sanikiluaq and Cambridge Bay, and the testing device they’ll be getting is called the Abbott ID NOW, Brown said.
“Those are the communities that, based on the travel routes and everything, could use that machine,” Brown said.
According to Abbott Laboratories, the device’s manufacturer, the ID NOW device can do a COVID-19 test in 13 minutes or less.
But it’s also less reliable than the Biofire and GeneXpert devices located in Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit, Brown said. The Health Department uses those devices to test nasal swabs taken from Nunavut residents, which are then flown to those testing sites.
That means testing samples that go through the new Abbott ID NOW device would still have to be sent to Rankin Inlet or Iqaluit for confirmation, she said.
Meanwhile, results from COVID-19 tests now done in Rankin Inlet or Iqaluit can be turned around in less than 36 hours, Brown said.
That compares favourably with the rest of Canada, where the average turnaround time for tests is between five and six days.
“We’re feeling like we’re on top of it,” she said, calling the Biofire and GeneXpert devices are the most reliable in Canada right now.
But the Health Department is also eyeing any new devices that may emerge.
“As new devices come into production and they’re approved by Health Canada, we are a part of the national committee that’s looking to see how we can adapt them to different situations,” she said.
Brown made her remarks in response to questions posed by Arviat North–Whale Cove MLA John Main, who asked Brown and Health Minister Lorne Kusugak about plans for expanding COVID-19 testing capabilities.
Nunavut MLAs have been scrutinizing the Department of Health’s $471-million operating budget for 2021-22 in committee of the whole.
The Health Department will account for 25.4 per cent of total territorial government spending in the next fiscal year.