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Cutting-Edge Technology: Right Here in Central Nebraska

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Kearney Regional Medical Center has recently been selected as a beta site for a new testing platform designed to provide rural hospitals with more accurate and timely testing for COVID-19. Read more about this exciting new venture in the Omaha World Herald article below.

(Source/link to full article)

Abe Oommen set out to create a portable testing platform that was so easy to use a farmer could take it into the field to check livestock for diseases such as African swine fever.

Earlier this year, however, he and his colleagues at MatMaCorp in Lincoln started getting calls from friends and colleagues in rural Nebraska who were facing long wait times for COVID-19 test results.

MatMaCorp, which Oommen founded in 2014, quickly developed a test for COVID-19 that could be run on its portable lab, which can fit in a backpack.

“The little black box idea was, ‘Can you take useful data and make it available to a farmer, or in this case a physician,’ ” said Oommen, a former University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor. “That is where we are headed.”

Last month, MatMaCorp became one of nine companies sharing $129.3 million in funding the National Institutes of Health is putting toward speeding the development, commercialization and implementation of COVID-19 testing technologies through its Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics initiative. Oommen declined to say how much of the total the company will receive.

The NIH announced a third round of awards Tuesday, bringing the total investment to $476.4 million.

“Each of the technologies emerging from the RADx initiative will play a critical role in extending accessibility to testing in diverse settings,” Dr. Francis Collins, the agency’s director, said in a statement.

Instead of doctors’ offices, however, MatMaCorp is aiming to place its device, the Solas 8, in the laboratories of smaller, rural hospitals that are several hours’ drive from the nearest large lab.

Kearney Regional Medical Center in Kearney already is testing the device. If it passes muster, the hospital could start using the machine to screen employees who may have had a high-risk exposure, said Shanna Stofer, the hospital’s director of ancillary services and patient safety.

MatMaCorp has applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Once the company receives approval, the hospital could begin testing people who come in on an outpatient basis. So far, the test is performing well.

“We just want to make sure it’s a good test and can turn out a good result,” Stofer said.

Kearney Regional currently sends most tests to the regional laboratory at the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus, which requires sending samples to Omaha by courier. The turnaround is typically between 48 and 72 hours.

The hospital has another rapid testing platform, she said. But supplies have been limited, and the machine has primarily been used for hospital patients. Having a second rapid testing platform would allow the hospital to provide outpatients with results more quickly.

“We’re super excited about this opportunity,” Stofer said.

MatMaCorp’s device, in fact, uses the same technology — polymerase chain reaction, or PCR — used by the larger platforms. However, it can run just six tests at a time, making it suitable for labs that run small batches of tests. A touch screen on the front guides users through step-by-step instructions.

“This supports our focus on underserved areas,” Oommen wrote in an email. “Rural labs will typically have lower budgets and test volumes that preclude them from purchasing the expensive platforms that are on the market.”

The devices would sell for about $9,500, and individual tests for about $25 each. The test cost is comparable to the cost of the rapid antigen tests on the market.

MatMaCorp previously has collaborated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on a test for bovine congestive heart failure and with the Department of Homeland Security on a test for African swine fever.

Oommen, a molecular biologist, helped launch another high-tech firm in Lincoln. GeneSeek, now a subsidiary of Lansing, Michigan-based Neogen, specializes in identifying genetic traits sought by livestock breeders.


One Visitor Allowed Per Patient at Kearney Regional Medical Center

Effective Saturday, September 12th one visitor will be allowed per patient at Kearney Regional Medical Center.

The decision to allow a visitor for each patient was primarily made to allow for better communication with patients’ families. In addition to caring for patients, nurses have been tasked with coordinating regular communications between patients, physicians and family members. Care Coordination Manager Lacey Keeshan, RN said, “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the need for regular reports to family members during the No Visitor period. Allowing a patient to have a visitor present will allow the family to coordinate some of those communications on their own.”

Allowing one visitor also provides great comfort for patients. While many families have taken advantage of Window Visits, Face Time, and other alternative ways of communication, “There’s nothing like having your mom or close friend hold your hand when you need it,” says Keeshan.

Universal Masking is a key component to keeping visitors, patients and staff safe. “If someone chooses to visit his/her loved one in our facility, we feel the policies we have in place will keep them safe,” said Infection Prevention Coordinator Josette McConville, RN.

All visitors will be screened for COVID-19 upon arrival and will be asked to stay in their patient’s room and avoid common areas. They must always wear a mask in the facility. Procedural masks are provided, or cloth masks are also acceptable.

The ‘No Visitor’ policy went into effect on August 11th to limit exposure to the COVID-19 virus within the hospital. One visitor was allowed per outpatient surgery patient to receive discharge instructions and provide the patient’s transportation. Maternity patients and NICU babies were also allowed a support person. Exceptions remain in place for pediatric patients, Comfort Cares patients, and care takers accompanying patients at Platte Valley Medical Clinic.

Maintaining the minimal number of visitors in the facility is still optimal for infection control.

As we head into cold/flu season, the risk for COVID-19 is not diminishing, in fact the percentage of positive tests being conducted at Kearney Regional Medical Center/Platte Valley Medical Clinic is going up. Last week 23% of tests conducted at KRMC were positive for COVID-19. The in-house ‘Risk Dial’ remains at “Elevated.” 

Later next week, an expanded Respiratory Clinic will open on the north side of Platte Valley Medical Clinic. Any current patients experiencing cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms will be seen in this location to minimize contact within the facility. Patients wanting to be seen in the Platte Valley Respiratory Clinic should call 308-865-2263 to speak to a nurse and schedule an appointment.

For a full list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding signs and symptoms of COVID-19, testing and treatment options, please visit

Kearney Regional Medical Center Receives Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award

Kearney Regional Medical Center has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award. The award recognizes the hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

Kearney Regional Medical Center earned the award by meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients at a set level for a designated period. These measures include evaluation of the proper use of medications and other stroke treatments aligned with the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients. Before discharge, patients should also receive education on managing their health, get a follow-up visit scheduled, as well as other care transition interventions

“We are dedicated to improving the quality of care for our stroke patients by implementing the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke initiative,” said Stroke and Trauma Program Coordinator Rebecca Hubbard. “The tools and resources provided help us track and measure our success in meeting evidenced-based clinical guidelines developed to improve patient outcomes.”

Kearney Regional Medical Center has also met specific scientific guidelines as a Primary Stroke Center, featuring a comprehensive system for rapid diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients admitted to the emergency department.

“We are pleased to recognize Kearney Regional Medical Center for their commitment to stroke care,” said Lee H. Schwamm, M.D., national chairperson of the Quality Oversight Committee and Executive Vice Chair of Neurology, Director of Acute Stroke Services, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. “Research has shown that hospitals adhering to clinical measures through the Get With The Guidelines quality improvement initiative can often see fewer readmissions and lower mortality rates.”

According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the United States. On average, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds and nearly 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.

Learn more about Stroke Care at Kearney Regional Medical Center.

COVID-19 Numbers Rising, Kearney Regional Medical Center Limiting Visitors Tuesday

In response to the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the area, Kearney Regional Medical Center is taking preventative measures to ensure hospital capacity and community safety.

Over the weekend, inpatient numbers in the COVID unit at Kearney Regional rose from three patients on Friday afternoon to eight patients Monday morning. There is currently one ventilated COVID-19 patient.

Effective Tuesday, August 11th visitors will be limited to:

  • One support person per surgical patient
  • Only essential visitors in Platte Valley Medical Clinic (caregivers, interpreters, etc.)
  • One support person per laboring mother in the Maternity Care Center
  • One parent/guardian per NICU baby

Extenuating circumstances will be allowed on a case-by-case basis including pediatric patients and Comfort Cares patients. All visitors must wear a mask and visitor badge for the duration of their visit. They will also be asked to stay in the patient’s room and avoid common areas such as the cafe or lobby. 

Dr. Scott Smith, Internal Medicine physician and Director of Medical Affairs at Kearney Regional Medical Center said, “Unfortunately this is going to be a cyclical thing for our community until there’s a vaccine. We will continue to see peaks and valleys in cases. We will adapt our visitor policies in order to keep our patients, staff and community members safe.”   

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 please contact Platte Valley Medical Clinic at 308-865-2263 to speak to a nurse. All COVID-19 screenings and appointments are conducted in a separate area of the clinic, away from all well patient appointments. When calling ahead, a nurse will provide directions for parking if needing to be seen at the Respiratory Clinic.

For a full list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding signs and symptoms of COVID-19, testing and treatment options, please visit