Firefighters have stepped up to help a Gateshead Covid testing lab as staff battle to meet demand during the Omicron push.
A team of firefighters from the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service are starting shifts in the NHS Lighthouse Laboratory Testing Center, where they will support health colleagues who work to effectively process the swabs.
Their efforts have been praised by the lab, which continues to call for more support during this “time of pressure”.
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A spokesperson for the Integrated Covid Hub North East, which is part of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our Lighthouse regional lab already processes around one million Covid tests each month and we have recently seen an increase of demand due to the Omicron surge.
“Right now, we are currently recruiting about 200 new employees to work in the lab, which will take us a few weeks.
“But until then, we urgently need more people to help us immediately, possibly on a temporary basis seconded from their current employer, to ensure that we continue to process swabs efficiently and efficient.
“We are extremely grateful to the colleagues at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service for being able to respond and offer temporary support during this particularly pressured time.”
The Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has dedicated 11,000 hours administering tests and vaccinations to support the NHS throughout the Covid pandemic.
Firefighters administered nearly 35,000 lateral flow tests and 20,000 jabs to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
In December, the service also helped set up vaccination centers in Newcastle – just four days after receiving a request from Newcastle GP Services.
Deputy Fire Chief Peter Heath said: ‘We play a critical role in the humanitarian response in our region and have adapted as a service in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have already worked closely with the health sector, but we have been an even closer ally to the NHS since the government introduced the screening and vaccination program.
“Our staff volunteered to help fight the pandemic and many of them gave their time to their day jobs.
“This type of life-saving response is a key function of the fire and rescue services and I am incredibly proud of every staff member and volunteer who has been involved.
“Community safety is at the heart of everything fire and rescue services strive to achieve, and right now.
“Supporting the collective fight against the coronavirus is one of our core community safety activities alongside our home safety and safe emergency response work.
“Frankly, we will always find a way to get to what is needed or to find a way.
“It’s part of our commitment to creating the safest community here in Tyne and Wear. “
The public can pick up lateral flow home test kits from the Washington Fire Department headquarters site between 9 a.m. and noon on Mondays and Thursdays.
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