MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Med-Lake Laboratory LLC, like many labs across America, is actively involved in providing tests for medical facilities with patients who may have contracted the potentially deadly novel coronavirus COVID-19.
Located at 100 Industrial Park Drive NW in Milledgeville, Med-Lake is a hospital and health care clinical medical laboratory company.
It officially opened in July 2018.
“We are a for-reference laboratory that produces diagnostic testing,” said Randy Peters, who serves as chief executive officer of Med-Lake. “We are high-complexity and we are certified. We specialize in blood chemistry, toxicology and also PCR testing.”
For the last two months, Med-Lake Laboratory has been extensively involved in conducting COVID-19 testing.
“We’re producing right now around 200 to 400 tests per day for COVID-19,” Peters said last week in an interview with The Union-Recorder.
Peters explained that the testing is conducted for companies throughout Georgia.
He said Med-Lake Laboratory also has a footprint in other states including Kentucky, Alabama and Colorado.
“We actually work with providers whose names have been sent to us from other labs,” said Brandi Richardson, a member of the management team at Med-Lake Laboratory. “We become a direct link to them so they can get this testing done quicker.”
Asked about the turnaround time for COVID-19 testing, Peters replied that it’s anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, once the specimen has been received.
“We have conducted a lot of testing for various facilities here in Milledgeville and Baldwin County since this pandemic began,” Peters said. “We have also done some testing with some local nursing homes and also some local testing with physicians’ offices.”
Peters said most of the work that had been done by Med-Lake has been through the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).
“We have been involved with them mostly in documenting positive cases of COVID-19, so they have accurate reporting,” Peters said.
The CEO said the local company is also working with the state to produce 200 COVID-19 tests per day.
“That’s not yet been approved, but we have been on calls since last week in an effort to try and make that happen,” Peters said.
Peters said last week that he also has been involved in discussions with officials of the Georgia National Guard to help set up a drive-thru testing site in Milledgeville and Baldwin County is “one of the hot spots right now.”
“Obviously, resources at this time for PPE, as well as swabs being allocated is a major issue,” Peters said. “So, one of the concerns that we have is finding enough swabs to do 200 patients a day.”
He said state Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville) and state Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) have been supportive in helping them get access to such supplies.
“Rick Williams has been very, very involved and extremely helpful in trying to initiate this, and now we’re making some good progress,” Peters said. “The ball is definitely moving in the right direction at this time.”
Peters said the more testing, the better off everyone will be in the long-run.
Med-Lake Laboratory does not provide walk-in service for patients.
“That’s never been our business model to have people coming into our lab to get any kind of testing done,” said Ashley Smith, co-owner and co-manager of the local lab. “We have a courier service and they run all over the state of Georgia. The courier service vans bring the specimens back here to our lab every day from physician offices and then we perform the testing.”
Smith, who also is co-owner of Spirit Aviation, which manages Baldwin County Regional Airport near Milledgeville, said UPS and FedEx are also involved in the shipping of items out-of-state to other labs serviced by Med-Lake.
Peters was asked why the local area had been designated as one of the state’s hot spots.
“I think there’s many reasons why you would [consider Baldwin County a] hot spot,” Peters said. “Number one, you don’t have a decline in positive cases where the curve is actually leveling out, and then, number two, is they are going to look at the population in accordance with the number of positive cases reported. With Milledgeville having right at, I believe, about 18,000 people living in the city limits, and about 45,000 living in Baldwin County, we’re just scratching the surface with the ability to offer these types of testing.”
He explained that there are two things related to it all.
“You have an asymptomatic patient, and you’ve got a symptomatic patient,” Peters pointed out. “The symptomatic patient, who comes in with symptoms, those kinds of cases are easy. You swab them, and it comes back positive or negative and then you can document that case. The asymptomatic patient, who doesn’t have any symptoms — they have no real reason to go to the doctor because they're not feeling bad or they might think it’s allergies and they don’t go to the doctor. They are the ones we call the super-spreaders who are out in all of the public locations spreading this virus and literally not knowing they are actually infected.
Peters, a graduate of Georgia College, came up with the slogan for the company when it was established: “Every specimen that comes through our door is a patient’s life.”
Smith said without a well-trained staff of people with a combined experience of 75 years, there is no way they could do what they are doing in the midst of this pandemic.
“This great staff has been working tirelessly around the clock, and we couldn’t be doing what we’re doing without any one of them,” Smith said.
Richardson said she along with Smith and Peters are invested in what is going in Milledgeville and Baldwin County because they are from Milledgeville and still live in the community.
“We’ve been very passionate about doing everything that we can do here, even though we work in other states,” Richardson said. “We’re doing everything we can do to really dig in and help Milledgeville and Baldwin County anyway we can.”