Innovative Diagnostics Program
In response to the Coronavirus (COVID19) Pandemic, the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) initiated a program to provide equipment and support rapid diagnostic testing in Northern, Remote and Isolated (NRI) communities across Canada.
The NRI Initiative served to breakdown barriers and inequalities in accessibility to timely healthcare by developing and supporting point-of-care (POC) diagnostics across Canada.
The NRI Team at the NML works closely with First Nation communities, First Nation health authorities, as well as provincial, territorial, and federal health authorities, to foster strong relationships between all levels of governance. Moving beyond the COVID19 Pandemic, this program continues to contribute to increased accessibility to healthcare services in historically underserved and vulnerable populations.
This mandate is achieved in several ways:
- Provision of equipment, test kits, and training: Working with First Nations, non-profit organizations, and provincial/territorial leaders, new partners are identified, trained and supported to launch POC diagnostic testing services.
- External Quality Assessment (EQA): Quality oversight through national proficiency testing programs (QASI®)
- Outbreak Preparedness: ongoing client services to ensure partner sites are well trained and well equipped to respond to and mitigate future outbreaks of respiratory viruses (SARS-CoV-2, Influenza, and RSV)
- Leadership and support to the advancement of POC testing by evaluating new POC technologies and rapid tests
- Basic research into the applications of wastewater surveillance in First Nation communities.
- Expansion of POC testing services beyond respiratory viruses to include other pathogens of concern to both existing and new partner sites, including Tuberculosis, HIV, HCV and other STBBIs.