The Covid-19 outbreak suddenly put in the limelight a sector in healthcare that in normal circumstances attracts little public attention: medical laboratories and testing facilities. The demand for reliable and quick tests for Covid-19 continues to grow, while the need of other medical tests remains relevant.
In this turbulent situation Bodimed Laboratories has proven professional, reliable and ready to help. Established in 1991 as the firts private laboratory for hormonal testing in Bulgaria, in 1999 Bodimed became a partner of Labor Limbach, a German giant in laboratory testing. This allowed Bodimed to offer to Bulgarian patients rare tests that are not available anywhere else in the country. In 2002, Bodimed became the first private laboratory in Bulgaria accredited by the Health Ministry. We talked to Todor Zahariev, manager, about how Bodimed works in the times of the coronavirus pandemic and about the company's achievements through the years.
What challenges did Bodimed face during the Covid-19 pandemic?
The challenges are still present, they are various, unexpected, and evolve with time.
My earliest memory of the outbreak is from the time when a crisis for materials and PPE began. The shortages were so severe that we had to buy alcohol on the "black market" at ten times the usual price and without any invoice. We had no choice but to comply. Otherwise we should have closed. Then fear got our staff, too. It was impossible to find employees to collect samples for Covid-19 analysis as everyone was afraid that their work would endanger both their lives and the lives of relatives belonging to the so-called risk groups.
For long, we had to work with 15% of the capacity we had in the same period of 2019. During this time our turnover was just enough to cover the most pressing expenses and the staff salaries.
The greatest challenge that we face at the moment is to increase the testing capacity of our PCR facility so that we are able to meet our patients' needs. The demand is high as a negative Covid-19 test is required for hospitalisation, travelling abroad and often for starting work or returning to work, for example.
How did Bodimed deal with these challenges?
We first created a team for home visits for Covid-19 testing. The people engaged in this did nothing else both because the demand was high enough to fill their shift, and because of the patients' and lab employees' safety.
The virus forced us to invest rapidly in our molecular biology testing facility. We bought equipment that met all current requirements and recommendations so that we are now able to analyse coronavirus samples in a completely safe environment, with minimal manual work and risk of error, and last but not least, with the highest possible precision.
What is the Covid-19 tasting procedure at Bodimed? How do you provide safety for patients and employees?
The process begins with sampling. It can be performed either at the patient's home or at one of our offices.
When a home visit is concerned, we send a team of two people. The person who will collect the sample is either a physician or a lab technician and is fully equipped with personal protective equipment that covers the whole body, gloves, a mask, a protective shield and shoe covers. The driver is responsible for calling the patient in advance and for maintaining a connection between the lab and the specialist who collects the sample. When his shift ends, he also has to fully disinfect the car.
The collected sample is transported to our PCR testing facility. The RNA is extracted and loaded in the thermal cycler. Currently about 30 hours are needed to get a result. We work hard to increase the team in our molecular biology lab so that we will be able to significantly reduce this time.
Bodimed has an impressive history. What are its biggest achievements through the years?
It is hard for me to distinguish the most important ones. Everything that we have done means a lot for us. For me, probably our greatest achievement would be our work culture that does not allow any compromises with quality. Because of it we are able to sleep with clear conscience at night.
Our partnership with the German laboratory Labor Limbach is among the most important milestones along our road. Thanks to it we became a part of one of the biggest European laboratory chains. Now we stand shoulder to shoulder with big, established laboratories from all over the world.
Besides coronavirus testing what other interesting novelties and services does Bodimed offer?
Our test portfolio is constantly expanding. We implement new methods that allow us to provide the Bulgarian market with some "exotic" tests.
In the recent years the market and the ways in which patients use lab services considerably changed. We had to adapt to these changes. Currently, a lot of Bodimed's services are available on different online platforms. Patients can now book an appointment for a home visit, select what type of testing they will need and pay all online.
Our partner, Limbach, has over 3,000 highly specific tests that are not available anywhere else in Bulgaria.
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