The testing capabilities in Tobago has been significantly improved with the procurement of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine which will be up and running very soon.
The revelation was made by THA Secretary of Health, Wellness and Family Development, Tracy Davidson-Celestine during the weekly virtual media briefing on Monday.
Davidson-Celestine said the PCR machine allows testing for not only covid19 but tuberculosis and HIV.
She said, “That machine was installed and training for four lab technicians was also completed and all protocols for use of the machine has been sorted and is now in line with national standards,” she said noting testing is expected to begin soon.
“I can’t issue yet a date for the start of the testing, all of the equipment has been installed, the training has taken place... We have one minor challenge where we did not receive the swabs, the test kits rather, with the machine, those are coming in from Guyana. I am told that they were sent by FedEx and would arrive in Tobago by this week. As long as that is received all will be well and we would start testing in Tobago, so we expect that before the end of the week, testing should begin... If not this week, early next week.”
The secretary said community surveillance now affords the division the opportunity to reach out within the communities and get a better understanding of what infections are in communities.
“We’re not only looking to test persons for covid(19) but we’re looking to test persons to see and to get better and more predictable information as to what is going on within our respective communities. Of course, that information we can use to shape policy going forward as it relates to health and healthcare for us in Tobago.”
General Manager of Primary Care at TRHA Dr Roxanne Mitchell provided an update for the period May 10-16 indicating that with regard to covid19 testing, 167 samples were done thus far; 98 returned negative, four positives, 30 rejected swabs and 35 still pending.
Mitchell said the Ministry of Health requires the TRHA to do eight to ten swabs per day as it pertains to general viral surveillance throughout the country.
“Thus far, we have done 49 swabs, 29 of which have returned negative specifically for covid and there are 20 swabs that are pending... these swabs are tested at the North Central Regional Health Authority,” she said noting that for the week May 10 to May 16, 12 swabs were done.
Acknowledging testing is a voluntary exercise, she appealed to Tobagonians to come forward for testing.
“What we are asking now is that persons who present to the health centres and the accident and emergency department, we’re asking that persons come forward for testing and general swabbing.
“The testings are not specific for covid but for any viral illness that we may have within the community. We’re advising persons who have respiratory-type symptoms, who have diarrhoeal-type symptoms as well to come forward to be swabbed so that we can identify the bugs that are causing these illnesses,” Mitchell said.