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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission approves renewal of contract on virus testing machine

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

MOUND CITY – Renewal of the extended warranty for the Cepheid virus testing machine at the Linn County Health Department was nearly side tracked again on Monday, Dec. 12, when Linn County Commission Chair Jim Johnson continued to question the need for it.

Linn County Department Health Department Administrator Missy Lancaster recommended that the warranty be renewed for the machine which tests for COVID, RSV, and influenza A & B. She said that it was the only machine in Linn County that could return the results back in an hour or so.

She also explained that there are four cartridges in the machine which cost $9,000 a piece when they need to be replaced. This warranty will cover that cost. The county has had the machine for a year and a half, and Lancaster said she would like to have the machine serviced and its calibration checked.

Lancaster also reiterated that grant money would pay for the renewal.

At last week’s meeting the commissioners had asked her to bring the numbers of how many people had been tested with the machine.

Lancaster said that so far this year 521 had been tested. More than 1,100 tests have been done since the department got the machine.

Johnson asked how many were positive tests. Lancaster said she had not looked that information up. The test results would be for any of the four infections.

Johnson asked several times why none of the doctors offices in the county had a machine like this.

Lancaster said that people were able to get their testing done for free at the health department and it is grant funded. She said that the doctors offices referred people to the health department so they could get their results quickly.

Lancaster explained that before receiving the machine, people’s tests had been sent to the state and it took three days to receive the results.

Johnson said he was confused what the doctors’s offices do and how many people are using the county testing.

Commissioner Rick James said the way he looked at it was the county had already spend $20,000 on it, and this is the last year that it is free, so to speak. The $4,000 to renew the contract is coming out of grant funds, so why wouldn’t the county do it this year, he added.

He said the commission could look at it again and figure out what to do next year. It becomes and obsolete piece of equipment if it could not be serviced.

James said that he thought it was a benefit to the people of Linn County, especially for the RSV testing. It’s a benefit for people who have little kids and cannot afford to go the doctor’s office.

Johnson asked weren’t doctors offices based off of a person’s income.

Lancaster said no. They have a sliding scale fee.

“If it is your child is sick and test positive for RSV and they can come in have it (results) in an hour and in maybe two hours you can have treatment,” said Lancaster.

Lancaster said it was a benefit to the patients in Linn County when they could come and have it done in an hour.

Lancaster said that she had recently had RSV and it is bad. She said she was very, very sick. She said she has taken care of kids who get hit even worse by it.

Linn County Counselor Gary Thompson told the commissioners, “Philosophically, and I am not trying to talk you into any thing either, when you think of all the things the health department does, this is one of the most consistent with what they should be doing.”

“Three doctors offices and they don’t have a machine that does this,” questioned Johnson. “What’s the deal here?”

The commissioners finally approved the renewal contingent upon Thompson reviewing the contract.

Commissioner Danny McCullough asked Lancaster if she could advertise the testing on Facebook. Lancaster said she had but would do it again.

Lancaster reported that the new awning that is being installed at the health center so that staff could test people in their vehicles was nearly completed and that there would be a walk-through at its completion later this week.

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