Albertans in rural and remote areas will soon have faster, more convenient access to COVID-19 testing through a new partnership between Alberta Health Services (AHS) and a Canadian technology company.

Spartan Bioscience Inc. is in the late stages of developing an innovative handheld, rapid-testing device for COVID-19, which can confirm test results for the virus in less than one hour.

This made-in-Canada solution is expected to help AHS provide additional, more expedient testing for COVID-19 in rural and remote communities, such as Indigenous communities, by eliminating the need for lab samples to travel to the nearest lab, which can be a logistical challenge.

As part of the $9.5-million contract, AHS will receive 250 handheld devices, along with 100,000 testing kits, to be distributed to healthcare facilities outside of Calgary and Edmonton. The first shipment arrives next month.

Health Canada is expected to approve the use of rapid test kits within a few weeks. AHS will validate test protocols and accuracy before the new technology is deployed, but has acted quickly to ensure the test kits are available in the province once approval is received.

The technology will be used in addition to AHS’ current lab testing.