Operational Considerations and Challenges of Biochemistry Laboratories During the COVID-19 Outbreak: An IFCC Global Survey

Clin Chem Lab Med. 2020 Jun 4;/j/cclm.ahead-of-print/cclm-2020-0710/cclm-2020-0710.xml. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2020-0710. Online ahead of print.


Objectives The International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) Task Force on COVID-19 conducted a global survey to understand how biochemistry laboratories manage the operational challenges during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Materials and methods An electronic survey was distributed globally to record the operational considerations to mitigate biosafety risks in the laboratory. Additionally, the laboratories were asked to indicate the operational challenges they faced. Results A total of 1210 valid submissions were included in this analysis. Most of the survey participants worked in hospital laboratories. Around 15% of laboratories restricted certain tests on patients with clinically suspected or confirmed COVID-19 over biosafety concerns. Just over 10% of the laboratories had to restrict their test menu or services due to resource constraints. Approximately a third of laboratories performed temperature monitoring, while two thirds of laboratories increased the frequency of disinfection. Just less than 50% of the laboratories split their teams. The greatest reported challenge faced by laboratories during the COVID-19 pandemic is securing sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), analytical equipment, including those used at the point of care, as well as reagents, consumables and other laboratory materials. This was followed by having inadequate staff, managing their morale, anxiety and deployment. Conclusions The restriction of tests and services may have undesirable clinical consequences as clinicians are deprived of important information to deliver appropriate care to their patients. Staff rostering and biosafety concerns require longer-term solutions as they are crucial for the continued operation of the laboratory during what may well be a prolonged pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; biohazard; biosafety; laboratory management.