Lab Matters Summer 2023 | Page 10


Adaptation and Innovation for Public Health : Sacramento County Public Health Laboratory

By Gynene Sullivan , MA , manager , Communications county building is aging , its infrastructure is constantly being evaluated and upgraded as necessary .
“ Since most of our instruments now have a bidirectional interface , we ’ ve spent a lot of time upgrading our electrical grid and broadband connectivity ,” said Gonzalez . “ Also , we ’ re right in the heart of downtown Sacramento , which is incredibly convenient for our clients .”
The laboratory is formally divided into four testing sections :
Public Health Microbiologist Nicole Kahl-Purcell , Supervising Public Health Microbiologist Jean Ventura and Laboratory Technician Debra Jo check in new specimens . Photo : Sacramento PHL
When Anthony Gonzalez , PhD , became director of the Sacramento County Public Health Laboratory in 2007 , he had no idea of the challenges that were just around the corner for him . The 2008-2009 financial crisis was an unexpected test .
“ I had no idea how much of an impact that the fiscal downturn would have on us ,” he said . “ We lost the ability for continuing education and meeting travel , as well as needed equipment purchases . But the biggest impact was staffing .” As a result of budget cuts , laboratory staff was cut in half from its original 20 full-time employees ( FTEs ).
“ There was absolutely no room for growth ,” Gonzalez said . But , as public health laboratories do , Sacramento adapted to its circumstances .
Location & Facility
As one of the original counties of California created in 1850 , Sacramento gained prominence and wealth during California ’ s Gold Rush . It became a commercial center due to the numerous railways stemming from the city and its proximity to the Sacramento River . Kayakers , rafters and other outdoor enthusiasts are also drawn to the area ’ s natural beauty .
The oldest incorporated city in California and its capital , Sacramento is an interesting mixture of historic preservation and the modern bustle of the state government . The city has over 525,000 inhabitants , although the metropolitan area numbers at approximately 2.4 million .
Located just south of downtown in an area with several county offices and close to the campus of the University of California Davis Medical Center , the Sacramento County Public Health Laboratory is on the second floor of a two-story county building , taking up 11,000 + square feet with BSL-3 facilities . Public health and primary care clinics are located on the first and second floors . The laboratory not only provides diagnostic and surveillance testing to Sacramento County , but also to the surrounding counties of Placer , El Dorado , Nevada , Sutter and Yuba County in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas . Even though the
• Mycobacteriology : Performs specialty testing for Mycobacterium tuberculosis ( TB ). On average , the laboratory processes about 6,000 patient requests per year .
• Bacteriology : Handles clinical specimens such as urine , sputa , respiratory or wound samples . The section also handles the samples from foodborne or waterborne outbreaks and parasitology .
• Serology : Conducts QuantiFERON ® testing for TB ; nucleic acid amplification testing for Chlamydia / gonorrhea ; and testing for syphilis and rabies . Last summer , the serology laboratory processed an average of 20 rabies tests per week — a new high for the area .
• Bioterrorism : With its BSL-3 rating , this part of the laboratory meets the strict federal safety requirements that allow staff to handle potentially dangerous respiratory disease agents . Laboratory staff are on call 24 / 7 to provide emergency testing for first responders in the community and for northern California clinical laboratories to rule out potential biothreat agents . The laboratory is also a member of the Laboratory Response Network ( LRN ).
However , Gonzalez notes , these are operational names only .
8 LAB MATTERS Summer 2023
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