WINDSOR, ONT. -- A proposal has gone through to the province for a lab that could process COVID-19 tests in Windsor, according to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

WECHU officials say they are supporting the application of a private third-party proponent to the Ministry of Health to bring a public health lab back to the region.

“We mentioned earlier on in the pandemic the importance of having a lab locally,” Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said Tuesday. “It was just a matter of time to find the right partner to step up.”

Currently COVID-19 tests are sent to a lab in London.

Ahmed said there are a number of pieces of the puzzle, but ultimately it would be the Ministry of Health that would approve it, with support from the proponent of what kind of set up they are proposing.

“That proposal has gone through to the province. We have supported it. The hospital has supported it and Ontario Health has supported it,” said Ahmed.

A Windsor-Essex lab is expected to be necessary as the region heads into the possibility of an influx of cases in the fall and winter.

“We need that, especially as we move into the second wave,” said Ahmed. “And a quick turnaround of the testing is critically important for many of the work that is needed from the public health side to initiate all of the investigation in a timely manner.”

There is no specific timeline on when the lab could open.

“Fingers crossed, we’re that hoping something should happen sooner rather than later,” said Ahmed.

CEO and chief nursing officer Theresa Marentette said Windsor did have a lab about 10 years ago on Huron Church Road.

“The health unit was very vocal at the time because it did make a difference for us, having a lab locally,” said Marentette.

She said they would advocate to have the lab even after the pandemic is over.

Windsor Regional Hospital received provincial approval to purchase a GeneXpert machine that will deliver COVID-19 test results in less than an hour.

The hospital has indicated that they will be using the machine to test in-patients initially due to limited supply of cartridges. WECHU says they have not applied to be a new site for a public health laboratory.