HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control addressed widespread COVID-19 testing delays in a statement Tuesday morning.
DHEC said multiple COVID-19 testing vendors and reporting facilities are failing to process tests and report results.
Kristina Loughrey, director of communications at Premier Medical Laboratory Services in Greenville, its lab experiencing problems of its own.
“On top of the delays that we were already experiencing, we were getting caught up in our turnaround times of results,” she said.
As of Tuesday, DHEC is actively addressing an issue many South Carolinians have faced — a delay in COVID-19 test results.
“A lot of them utilize the same labs,” Jason Self, director of primary care at Tidelands, said. “Whenever there’s [an] influx across the nation, those regional testing sites where they send everything to be done at get overwhelmed.”
According to DHEC, its lab has a daily capacity of 2,500 samples but has operated at that capacity with no current delays. However, about 97% of COVID tests are processed at non-DHEC labs, including Premier Medical Labs.
“We saw overnight a 400% increase in the amount of tests coming into our lab, and then in the subsequent weeks, we saw a 733% increase in that amount of test,” Loughrey said. “We’re also facing staffing shortages.”
DHEC said it realizes the delays are unacceptable, and that the department is taking every step it can to hold labs and vendors accountable.
“Serving South Carolinians is very, very important to us and we do realize how this impacts people and that’s why we take it very seriously,” Loughrey said.
She said the lab hired just under 250 employees over the past two weeks. The lab also invested millions of dollars in new equipment. Loughrey said they plan to install it this week.
“We’re planning on getting back to normal turnaround times within the next one and a half to three weeks. during that time,” she said. “We’re planning a continual improvement on how we can deliver these results to everyone.