RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, UT Health RGV clinical lab has been focused on testing for the coronavirus, and now they are expanding their services.
“[We’re] running about 10-12 thousand samples a month,” said Dr. Thomas.
It’s been a busy few months for Dr. John Thomas inside the UTRGV lab.
He’s the lab director and since April he said they have tested 90 thousand samples from across Texas testing for one virus: COVID-19.
“We were selected to participate in the state of Texas task force on COVID over the summer and that task force was responsible for testing gathered all across the state,” he said.
Now, in addition with COVID-19 testing, they are adding testing for other illnesses to their lab.
“Testing is not really done here. It’s usually put on a truck and sent to San Antonio or maybe put on an airplane and flown to Dallas or Austin. So those samples leave the valley and they now have to wait to be received at their new site and the information has to be sent back,” he said.
That process can take a day or more.
The UT Health RGV Clinical Lab will focus on six key sections of testing:
- Anatomic pathology.
- Coagulation and urinalysis.
- Clinical microbiology.
- Routine chemical testing.
- Molecular testing.
He adds from his experience sending samples outside the RGV can be a matter of life and death.
“My mother in law had stage four lung cancer never smoked a day in her life and she just came down with lung cancer and what ended up killing her was the drugs she was taking caused her cancer to mutate and unfortunately, this mutation happened when she was away from her doctor at a two-week time and by the time she got back to the doctor it was too late and she died two weeks later,” said Thomas.
Testing for the new virus won’t stop. The lab will continue to be able to handle COVID-19 testing, even if a spike in samples come in.
Hospital systems across the RGV do their own testing for illnesses.
Dr. Thomas said the goal is to help fill the gap and provide people with testing options for faster local results.
“Half the people we see don’t have insurance. We want to make sure they get the same high-quality testing at a cost that’s going to be easy for them to bear,” he said.
Dr. Thomas said they’re going to centralize all the testing being conducted at the 25-plus UT Health RGV clinics throughout the valley through the main lab in Edinburg.