Our healthcare heroes | Life during a pandemic and beyond: meet Komal

Komal Narottam is a Senior Biomedical Scientist at HCA Healthcare UK Laboratories.

To coincide with National Pathology Week, we talk to Komal Narottam about how the COVID-19 global pandemic has affected the HCA UK laboratories.  

What did a typical day look like for you before the pandemic?  

I work in both the microbiology and serology departments. To explain it simply – I test a range of samples for bacterial infections; be it urine, stool, tissues or CSFs.  

I run tests for a wide range of viruses and test whether a particular patient has been exposed to it or has immunity to it. We test against measles, mumps, Hepatitis A, B & C, HIV, Syphilis and many other viruses.  
The number of samples we get per day varies as it very much depends on the test. Certain tests take just 30 minutes, others take three hours, and some might need to be referred out to a specialist lab if it’s a rare test.  

We have staff working all sorts of shifts as our department never closes and work continues day and night. 

Did your role change as a result of the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic?

When we began testing for COVID-19, our workload unsurprisingly dramatically increased. During the first peak of the virus, we were testing between 600-700 samples a day, as well as up to 70 samples a day for antibody testing. Now, we are handling over 1,000 COVID-19 samples a day from all the hospital sites and clinics. We have been processing urgent in-house requests, where we can obtain a results within four hours of sample receipt. 

Another thing which the team had to quickly get accustomed to was the new government regulations such was wearing face masks. We had a lot of changes to the workflow. We’re being even more cautious than ever before to minimise contamination of the samples and safely working with the huge volume of work.   

Some people also moved to working from home as they were shielding during the first peak, so we all had to pull together to help each other out.  

What does your role look like now?

We’ve got a much better workflow going on now and we’re all getting used to the new normal. We have all of the right processes in place, and are ready to adapt to any change in policies or guidelines. 

Watch this short video to learn more about the way HCA Healthcare UK has adapted the way healthcare is provided in its hospitals and clinics.