Standing firm on staff safety with launch of PCR testing lab

Adam Anand Row 

As the world saw a resurgence in COVID-19 cases at the tail-end of 2020, Gamuda was taking no chances with the health and well-being of its employees, taking the initiative to establish its very own Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing laboratory.  

The facility, which is the first private initiative in the Malaysian construction industry, was unveiled in early December 2020 at the MGKT Fire and Rescue Depot located at Jalan Chan Sow Lin. The lab, equipped with the latest technology, including two state-of-the-art PCR machines and a dedicated team of in-house medical technicians, has been tasked with screening more than 20,000 personnel working in the various Gamuda business groups. 

Christopher Fenton, MGKT General Manager for Safety, Health and Environment, who spearheaded the project shared, “PCR testing is the gold standard for COVID-19 testing. In-line with the company’s commitment to safeguarding everyone’s health and well-being in the Gamuda family, it was a no-brainer to make the switch to this improved testing methodology. 

“More importantly, we can drastically cut down the time between testing and getting concrete results compared to external labs which is a key factor in ensuring that any infections are quickly identified and isolated. Our effectiveness in ‘breaking the chain’ is exponentially increased, allowing us to better manage the safety of our employees and offer the highest level of preventative protection during this pandemic.” 

The COVID-19 testing laboratory at MGKT Fire and Rescue Depot.

A pool screening technique is used to achieve higher turnaround time in testing, allowing more samples to be scrutinised while still ensuring test accuracy. 

Results from the state-of-the-art Quantstudio-5, Real-Time PCR System are uploaded to a common database for efficient detection and contact tracing if required.

Traceability is a key component of identifying and isolating infections, and thus every member of staff has been issued a personal QR code. This ensures every step from swab taking to lab processing, and the final test result is secured on a common database providing no one slips through the cracks. 

The PCR lab itself, which performs on the level of established labs worldwide, employs a pool screening technique to achieve higher turnaround time in testing. This allows for more samples to be scrutinised while using fewer test reagents, yet only has a negligible effect on test accuracy. 

Compared to a conventional lab, five times more samples can be screened within the same time frame. 

“PCR testing at external labs currently require varied waiting time that can go up to 24-hours before results are available. Not knowing your results for extended periods can be an extremely stressful experience, which we can now avoid by having our in-house lab. The peace of mind from quick results is an intangible but welcome benefit to every Gamuda employee as we continue to work throughout the CMCO. The first round of testing has resulted in some positive cases being identified, however these are all being managed according to the SOPs we have in place.” Chris added.