The new HUSLAB building in Meilahti, Helsinki, brings previously scattered laboratories together under one roof. The aim is to enhance efficiency, quality and cooperation between specialist areas.
A spotless glass wall gleams in the afternoon sun. Through it you can glimpse the automation laboratory. It is located partially underground and houses Europe’s longest automation line at 84 metres.
This is the new HUSLAB building, which brings together the clinical chemistry and haematology, clinical microbiology, genetics, and pathology laboratories. Bacteriology and some pathology functions remain at the Haartman Institute opposite HUSLAB.
The starting point when planning these facilities was for similar functions to be located near each other across specialist areas. As a result, we can combine functions and utilise the same devices and procedures, says HUSLAB’s Chief Clinical Chemist, docent Päivi Laitinen.
In practical terms, this means that the microbiology and chemistry laboratories will combine their sample receptions, for instance. The organ transplant and haematopathology laboratory can share devices with special haematology and flow cytometry. Genetics, virology and bacteriology on the other hand will share clean rooms.
The staff can also familiarise themselves with different specialities according to their interests.
Construction of the HUSLAB building began in March 2013 and was completed in August 2015. Production at the new facilities began in February 2016.
The same building also houses the new Tullinpuomi sample collection site for outpatients. In the future, the site will be able to serve up to 700 patients a day.
Automation speeds up work
The new HUSLAB building is filled with automation and cutting-edge technology that increase the quality and efficiency of operations.
At the heart of those operations is the automation laboratory, which runs 24/7, 365 days of the year. Its planned sample capacity is up to 26,000 tubes a day.
On the ground floor is the automated sample reception, where approximately 450 sample cases from 70 different sample collection sites around Helsinki and Uusimaa region will be received daily.
Cars drive into the basement, where the cases can be unpacked sheltered from the rain and snow, Laitinen explains.
The driver carries the cases to an entrance conveyor. The conveyor transfers the cases to delivery points and their contents are then loaded onto trays.
The entrance conveyor’s elevator takes the sample trays up to the next floor, where the trays end up either in the automation line or they go on to manual processing. Within the building, the samples are transported to different floors using an intelligent internal conveyor.
From Meilahti’s clinics, samples arrive via pneumatic mail, so the cartridges are unloaded automatically. Additionally, messengers deliver samples to the laboratory via a tunnel.
– The distance from here to the Meilahti Tower Hospital is 400 metres, which is logistically challenging. Therefore we have brought in some electric mopeds for the messengers to use, says Laitinen with a smile.
Everyone’s wishes were heard
HUSLAB staff were very involved in planning the new facilities. Each floor had a person in charge of planning that floor’s functions and facilities.
Everyone who was excited about this got to tell us their wishes.
The facilities were designed with functionality first. Moreover, they were made to be as versatile as possible: as needs evolve, changes to the facilities are easy to implement.
The new facilities enable us to improve the quality of operations. Previously, some laboratories operated in facilities constructed out of old inpatient wards, and those spaces no longer met today’s requirements for laboratories, Laitinen says.
A great deal of attention was also paid to well-being and safety at work. In particular, we strove to reduce noise and increase the amount of natural light.
The laboratory ceilings are fitted with acoustic panels and automation laboratories have additional noise absorbers. These make the space echo less, which reduces the amount of background noise. Noisy devices such as mass spectrometers were placed in separate spaces behind glass doors.
During the planning phase, people wished for plenty of natural light in all spaces. As a result, the facilities have several glass walls. A double-glazed glass wall lets light into the partially underground automation laboratory, making it well-lit.
Information system to be renewed
As HUSLAB moves to new facilities, it will renew its hardware and information system as well. The old Multilab system, which has been in use for a long time, will be replaced with modern, browser-based Weblab.
HUSLAB’s sample collection as well as clinical chemistry and haematology have transferred many important tests to Weblab and the implementation of the new information system continues within all of the different branches of HUSLAB. Next to join will be clinical microbiology and later on pathology and genetics.
Mylab has been our long-term partner and our close cooperation continues. Their services are always flexible and they listen to the client, Laitinen says, full of praise.
Laitinen notes that clients’ needs change constantly and the laboratory should change along with them. Much is expected of the information systems as well.
It is no longer enough to relay requests and results. Instead, monitoring and reporting on operations is more important than ever. We must be able to see what tests have been ordered by which unit and how quickly we can respond to the requests, she summarises.
Text Virpi Ekholm, images Mikko Käkelä
HUSLAB is Finland’s leading producer of clinical laboratory services and performs nearly 20 million laboratory tests a year. The public utility company is owned by the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, HUS. HUSLAB has 1,500 staff members and 450 of these will be working in the new HUSLAB building in Meilahti, Helsinki.