New year, new laboratory

The doors opened to new occupants on Dec. 10 as the first of two phases of the move into the new state-of-the-art clinical laboratory at Community Regional Medical Center was completed.

The move’s first phase began with microbiology, tuberculosis and fungal sections relocating – representing about one-fourth of the laboratory. The second phase begins the first week of January and should be complete by Jan. 14.

“The new laboratory facility provides 18,000 square feet as compared to the old space of 7,500 square feet,” said Dr. Michael Weilert, medical director of Community Medical Centers clinical/pathology laboratories, who was instrumental in its planning.

“The new laboratory will allow for increased automation, improved efficiency in existing testing, and for expanded capability with additional testing.”

Some of the new high-tech highlights include:

  • The hematology section has a new automated track connecting cell counters and a new automated unit to make peripheral smears on cases requiring manual review.
  • The chemistry section has an expanded chemistry automation track with the capacity for dual automated chemistry analyzers and dual automated immunoassay instruments in addition to the sample handling unit.
  • The microbiology section has expanded and includes new quarters for the tuberculosis and fungus laboratories that comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isolation requirements.
  • The transfusion service has expanded quarters with increased blood storage capacity and space for new automated instrumentation planned for the near future.

Dr. Weilert said tube stations will connect the new facility to the tube system in the hospital's trauma and critical care building and soon in the remodeled 8th and 9th floor units in the 10-story building.

New testing already in the pipeline for the facility includes Quantiferon Gold testing for tuberculosis exposure and viral load testing for HIV and hepatitis C virus.

Another new program that’s possible with the additional space is the resumption of clinical laboratory scientist internship training at Community, which will start in mid-2008, said Christine Darmanian, laboratory director.

Dr. Weilert said the laboratory, which runs more than 2.4 million tests annually, has a highly skilled team of pathologists, clinical laboratory scientists, laboratory technicians, phlebotomists, lab assistants and clerical staff who work together to provide increasingly sophisticated and rapid diagnostic and monitoring information for Community physicians and caregivers.

“More than 75% of medical decisions made by physicians are based on laboratory findings,” Dr. Weilert said. “In fact, the practice of medicine would be impossible without the tests performed in the laboratory. The laboratory plays a critical role in collecting the information needed to give the highest quality care to our patients.”

This story was reported by Mary Lisa Russell. She can be reached at