Z-Labs is headed by 23-year-old Bedfordview resident Zahrah Singh, who is part-owner and is responsible for daily operations and finance. The lab, which aims to be a convenient alternative to the larger labs, was established in December 2020 and has continued to grow. A portion of their profits also goes to the Bedfordview CPF’s LPR camera network.
What makes Z-Labs unique is that they are open earlier and close later than most other labs, and are operational seven days per week with longer operating hours on weekends than other labs. They are also in a very convenient location – in the Spar parking lot of Bedford Village.
Z-Labs can also offer a complete meta profile where they test for flu and upper respiratory tract infections at no additional cost to the Covid test.
The lab can also turn around results relatively quickly. In general, a 24 hour turnaround time can be expected – sometimes earlier. During the third wave, the wait is between 24-48 hours. The drive through process – from filling out the forms to test completion – is generally between 5-8 minutes, depending on how busy the lab is. ‘Our aim is to create a comfortable environment for the community where they can come in whenever they need to as opposed to the bigger labs, which have set times. We are providing an alternative option without long waiting times,’ said Singh.
Z-Labs has seven staff members including Singh, with three qualified nurses. The main administrative person has worked at a major lab for around 15 years and the relief administrative person is a qualified doctor who is writing her board examinations.
Clients can pay for tests with cash, card or with medical aid (a doctor’s referral letter is needed to claim back from most medical aids). The tests are done by Toga Laboratories, which is owned by a Bedfordview resident.
The idea for Z-Labs came about when Singh’s father had a discussion with Bedfordview Ward Councillor Jill Humphreys about how the laboratories were struggling with the great amount of people in the community who needed to get tested for Covid-19.
A friend of Singh’s father’s had a lab in Durban and offered to set up one in Bedfordview for her father to manage. As Singh’s father had to juggle a full-time job and became busy, he asked her to run the lab for him. ‘When we weren’t that busy we were wondering if the lab was viable but I decided to try and run it on my own and see it through. I also did not want the staff, who are from the community, to be without jobs,’ said Singh, who took over the lab on 1 May and has successfully run the business since.
Singh’s drive to make the lab work also came out of wanting to help the community. She is hoping Z-Labs will become a fully-fledged lab in Bedfordview that caters towards the community’s needs. ‘We want to expand beyond Covid tests to other services. PCR tests allow us to detect flu, upper respiratory tract infections, Tuberculosis and HIV. We also want to expand into offering blood tests and more. It will be driven by what is most needed in the community. For example, in Bedfordview, we would focus more on the flu and viral infections and cater towards those conditions.’
Singh has a full-time job as a data science intern, which makes it challenging to balance that position and her role at Z-Labs. However, her determination and good time management ensure she can successfully manage both roles. Her days are long, however they enable her to plan her day by ensuring that work is completed, queries are handled and patients are happy. ‘It’s challenging, but I push through it – there’s no other choice. That is what building a successful business is about,’ said Singh.
Although she said the responsibility of running a business at such a young age is ‘daunting’, she has had a great deal of support. ‘The community support has been amazing. I would like to thank the community, as well as Jill Humphreys, who has been fantastic throughout this whole journey. Toga Laboratories has also been exceptional in helping to provide efficient and effective service to Z-Labs and patients. It’s great to see the support we are getting from our community leaders.’
A small portion of Z-Labs’ profits go towards the Bedfordview CPF to keep the LPR cameras running. The cameras are used to create a safer and more secure Bedfordview and aid in the ongoing fight against crime. For every Bedfordview resident who gets tested, R30 from that test goes towards the CPF. Z-Labs raised R21,000 for the CPF in June alone.
Z-Labs operating hours:
Weekdays: 7-5pm (was changed to accommodate staff and found that it was extremely effective in the community)
Address: Spar parking lot, Bedford Village, 11 Nicol Road.
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