PSYCHIATRIST and independent senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh says delays in providing results for covid19 tests can put the population at risk.
With an increase in covid19 cases, personal hygiene and testing are two key components in the battle to stem its spread.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) and the government have implemented what they described as “much-needed” regulations such as wearing masks; closing schools, with online classes only; reduced passenger capacity on public transport; closing entertainment establishments such as theatres and cinemas; stopping in-house dining at restaurants; and limiting gatherings, among other things.
But even with private clinics doing covid19 testing, there is a backlog at public health facilities. With this delay, what are the chances of someone having the virus and not knowing in time?
The daily MoH updates have indicated that the new numbers of covid19 cases reflect samples taken about a week earlier, and therefore are not “representative of the positive cases over the last 24 hours only.”
The cost of a covid19 test at a private lab in St Clair is $1,650, at St Augustine Medical Laboratories it is $1,110, at Caribbean Forensics Services $1,100 and at Victoria Laboratories prices vary based on the method of testing. There are limitations on the days and times for testing.
But those results are given within 48 hours, while in the public health sector it can take two to three weeks.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh admitted to the public on August 22 that there was a backlog in testing.
He said then, “I want to sincerely apologise to all of those persons in our step-down or quarantine facilities who have not yet received your results. I humbly apologise. I can only imagine the anxiety you are going through, because you did not call this upon yourself.”
The minister announced that additional equipment was being bought, including 140,000 covid19 test kits and 25 GeneXpert machines for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing, to be placed in all major hospitals.
Senator Deyalsingh, however, said it was unfortunate that there were delays in providing covid19 results, and this could put people at further risk.
He said, “There have been complaints where people in home quarantine have undergone the two-week quarantine period and still have not gotten results.
“This is dangerous, as they could be asymptomatic, and if the proper isolation mechanisms were not taken, then people in close proximity would be in danger.”
The senator said the ministry was well aware of the causes of delay, which range from a lack of communication, increases in covid19 cases that have led to staff burnout, staff shortages, a delay in samples reaching CARPHA, and an overwhelmed testing system.
He added that with the new rapid test kits that the ministry has promised, hopefully the testing system will be more efficient.
“While there were limitations to the rapid testing and antigen testing, it is hoped that this can help with the backlog.
“The preferred testing mode would be the use of the PCR, but this can assist greatly and treat better with covid19.”
He noted that to get anything done at a public institution takes time.
“The bureaucracy at the public facilities would mean a longer waiting time for testing and the results, whereas in a private lab it was getting it done fast because it is business to upkeep.”