Conducting PCR and RAT tests: Some Private Hospitals Noncompliant – NOCPCO
Head of the National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO), General Shavendra Silva, on 20 January, raised concerns about some private hospitals not following guidelines issued by the Health Ministry on conducting PCR tests and Rapid Antigen Tests.
During a discussion, General Silva said it was obligatory for the private sector to confine those coming for antigen and PCR tests for some time in a waiting area, till their test results were issued. But this appears not to be the case. There are complaints that such procedures are not followed, even though there have been positive cases amongst those who have been to private sector facilities for testing.
He alleged that the health authorities were also not informed of such positive cases and those private hospitals also tend to release the results haphazardly. It has also been highlighted that the testing methodology had been distorted and that attempts were made by certain private sector hospitals to conduct antigen and PCR tests also at regional testing places and mini laboratories which have not received any authorisation from the Health Ministry.
“This has caused a setback to the health sector’s battle against transmission, since such positive cases evade detection, infecting others, without receiving treatment,” General Silva said.
He accused the private sector of charging exorbitant sums for COVID-19 testing. This should not be the case. Only 30 equipped laboratories are authorised by the Health Department to conduct PCR and RAT tests in accordance with approved provisions and guidelines, because concerns have been raised regarding the reliability and accuracy of the tests by certain affected parties. Private laboratories sometimes provide contradictory results.
The private sector charges over Rs 6,000 for the antigen test alone, he said, urging laboratories run by private hospitals to reduce the price further, for the benefit of the masses.
Furthermore, General Silva discussed about the possibility of implementing a common regulatory mechanism to conduct PCR and Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT), while prioritising BOI-approved garment factories, hospital employees, foreign travellers, and those scheduled for surgeries, to streamline and reinforce credibility of the procedures, with Director General of Health Services (DGHS), Dr. Asela Gunawardena and medical specialists and private sector laboratory technicians.
Dr. Gunawardena appealed to those laboratory technologists to strictly adhere to guidelines and regulations and ensure credibility of the testing methodology at their highest levels, without resorting to malpractices.
Officials of the Health Ministry and Health Department, state hospitals, Task Force members, and officials of several other agencies were also present. A group of 10-12 laboratory authorities and private hospital administrators attended the meeting.