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Providence now processing coronavirus tests at its lab

Providence will be able to process tests for 500 to 600 patients per day.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Providence Health & Services will begin analyzing coronavirus tests at its lab Wednesday, marking a significant milestone that appears to be the first metro-area expansion of testing capacity among hospitals.

Providence will be able to process tests for 500 to 600 patients per day. Only those people who are sick enough to require testing, based on a doctor’s determination, are eligible.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that the health authority separately has a deal in place to eventually have Quest Diagnostics provide up to 20,000 tests. A first batch of 5,000 are expected to be available “any day now,” Brown’s chief of staff said.

The test processing at Providence is separate and in addition to the deal Brown announced Wednesday.

The work will be completed at the Providence Molecular Diagnostic Lab in Northeast Portland. The hospital system already has samples from 300 patients awaiting processing, and expects to provide results within about 24 hours.

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Providence has the necessary testing supplies to process results for for 2,000 to 3,000 people.

“Back in 2009 during the Influenza H1N1 pandemic, our lab was the only one doing this kind of testing in our state,” Providence said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have seen many advances over the last 10 years and now our colleagues in other hospital labs have the skills and equipment to do this. They are actively developing COVID-19 tests so that our entire community can be served.”


Expanding lab capacity in hospitals and at private labs has been a top priority in Oregon.

The Oregon State Public Health Laboratory has offered the bulk of analysis statewide, limiting the capacity of Oregonians to get tested. The Oregon Health Authority has set strict criteria for testing at the lab, limiting it to high-risk populations, while saying hospital systems and commercial labs will eventually be able to test a broader swath of people with less-severe symptoms.

About 1,200 Oregonians have been tested to date, with an additional 361 awaiting results. The state lab can process about 80 tests per day, officials have said.

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Other hospital systems beyond Providence are working toward in-house lab capacity to process tests.

OHSU Hospital expects to come online by March 25, if not sooner, and Legacy Health hopes to have limited capacity within two weeks. Kaiser Permanente has not responded to requests for comment.

-- Brad Schmidt; bschmidt@oregonian.com; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt

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