WINDSOR, ONT. -- A new testing machine is expected to help Windsor Regional Hospital reduce the wait time for a COVID-19 test to less than an hour.

The hospital has received government approval for the GeneXPert XVI, a 16-module testing machine.

“When we have symptomatic patients in the hospital, it’s very important to be able to rule COVID out to make sure that we’ve got them in the appropriate bed placement, we’re getting them the appropriate treatment as soon as possible,” said Karen Riddell, vice president of critical care at WRH.

Riddell said that would also mean freeing up beds as the hospital looks to ramp up surgeries.

“Every time we admit a ‘rule out COVID’ we’re having to block beds and that limits our availability to of beds for other patients that need to come into the community,” she said.

Hospital CEO David Musyj says Ontario Health and the Ministry of Health support the operational costs, but WRH has to buy the machine.

Musyj says there “will be limited test kits to start,” and that they need to prioritize those that need more immediate results.

The plan is to start with hospital in patients that need results for treatment etc.

Musyj says it will also help save Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use if the result is negative, rather than wait a couple of days for results.

The hospital says currently when tests are sent to London, it takes about 48 hours or more for results.

Musyj adds they will still send the majority of tests to London.

“We send currently (send) 4000 a week to London from WRH alone,” says Musyj. “That number is expected to increase to 6000 possibly 8000 a week.”

The operating costs are about $70 a test.

Musyj says if the machine ran 24 hours, it could do 384 results in a day.

He expects it will start at the end of October or early November, for the regional use. They will start with limited test kits and expand it into the end of 2020 and early 2021.