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GeneXpert testing “game changer” for respiratory infection diagnosis in Eeyou Istchee


Wemindji and Waskaganish CMCs roll out GeneXpert machines for better infectious disease testing


GeneXpert testing technology provides fast and accurate PCR test results - on the spot, within an hour - for respiratory infections, including COVID-19, the flu, and RSV.

This technology, delivered through a machine the size of a printer, is now being used at CMCs in Wemindji and Waskaganish to provide precise and faster results to diagnose these respiratory illnesses.

GeneXpert testing rolled out in Wemindji and Waskaganish in late January 2023 after more than a year of intensive efforts and collaboration between stakeholders and partners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a milestone for community health care in Eeyou Istchee, and it means “less stress”, said Rachel Danyluk, director of CMC Wemindji.

Rachel Danyluk

Less stress for nurses and better service for our clients

“It means less pressure on regional labs to get test results, and less stress for our nurses, because now they can know within hours what they are facing after a test, and what to tell our clients.” – Rachel Danyluk, director of CMC Wemindji.

Quick, precise test results mean more autonomy in community health care

We learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that testing for infections is a critical layer of protection for our communities in Eeyou Istchee. Rapid antigen tests became a routine part of living with COVID-19 through the different waves experienced in the last three years.

People went for PCR testing at their CMC to confirm positive results when it was recommended. Providing high-volume PCR testing at CMCs was an ongoing challenge for the Cree Health Board during the pandemic. PCR test results had to be sent offsite to external laboratories, which meant delays to get results.

Having GeneXpert machines at CMCs in Eeyou Istchee means more autonomy at the local level to diagnose respiratory infections quickly and accurately, and recommend action to patients.

CMC clinical staff can now “administer the proper medication as soon as possible,” such as antivirals, Danyluk said. “It’s also easier to reach out to clients the same day that they have come in to get tested, to give them their results…. Instead of trying to call them back days after their consultation.”

“For the clients, it’s less anxiety, because they can know what they have and how to protect themselves, their families, and people in their community,” Danyluk said.

Annie Connelly, a liaison nurse at CMC Wemindji, has worked for many years in Eeyou Istchee. She says having the tools and technology to diagnose infections on the ground provides autonomy and better care for patients.

Direct impact on health outcomes of our clients

“Our ability to detect and rapidly treat infections has a direct impact on the health outcomes of our clients. I’m happy with this GeneXpert machine. It’s very good, and I hope to see more initiatives like this in the near future.” – Annie Connolly, liaison nurse at CMC Wemindji

Annie Connolly

GeneXpert technology a result of partner collaboration

GeneXpert machines are currently approved to diagnose COVID-19, influenza and RSV. The machines are provided to CBHSSJB by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Implementing this technology in Eeyou Istchee involved many partners, including consultation with the Innu Nation, Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML), and the Laboratoire de santé publique du Québec (LSPQ).


Michael Moutquin

"We did this together"

“Our partners helped us identify and organize the physical site [at the CMC] to be compliant with biosafety standards. They provided adapted online training, and were available to troubleshoot for solutions. They also provided good documentation to support all aspects of the process, and for quality control.” – Michael Alexandre Moutquin, Head Nurse at CMC Wemindji.

One of the challenges to integrate GeneXpert machines in the CMCs was space on the floor. CMC Wemindji identified a big room in the clinic that met all biosafety standards.

“This was a good investment of space,” said Rachel Danyluk, CMC Wemindji director. She’s confident that the GeneXpert technology and equipment will be further integrated into diagnostic services provided at the CMC to test for other infectious diseases.

Cree Public Health is proud of its ongoing collaboration with Miyupimatisiiun and other partners involved to bring GeneXpert technology to Waskaganish and Wemindji.

The GeneXpert technology is rolling out in Eeyou Istchee’s coastal communities because of difficulties and challenges with air travel and delays during the winter season.

Plans are underway to bring GeneXpert machines to other coastal communities in Eeyou Istchee, with the goal of having this technology available in other CMCs.

Justine-Daoust Lalande and Rachel Danyluk_

GeneXpert testing lowers client anxiety

“For the clients, it’s less anxiety, because they can know what they have and how to protect themselves, their families, and people in their community." – Rachel Danyluk, CMC Wemindji director

In photo L-R: Justine Daoust-Lalande, Infectious Diseases Coordinator and Rachel Danyluk

Community-level testing for respiratory infections is essential to monitor, identify and control outbreaks, to provide better health protection care for all people in Eeyou Istchee.

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