Health officials snubbed for delay in Corona test reports

Updated 25 May, 2020

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A health worker checks a woman's temperature amid coronavirus fears, at a counter at the Cantonment railway station in Karachi. — Reuters
A health worker checks a woman's temperature amid coronavirus fears, at a counter at the Cantonment railway station in Karachi. — Reuters

LAHORE: The Punjab Home Department has admonished the provincial health authorities for, what it called, inordinate delay in generating Covid-19 test reports of the expats and others arriving from abroad, besides questioning the testing capacity of the province.

The department also sought action against the health department officials concerned for their “failure” to address the issue of delayed reporting, causing a great deal of inconvenience and anxiety among the expats who were made to wait for days at quarantine centres ‘without any reason’.

Particularly, the home department snubbed the Multan and Faisalabad health officials for “wasting” more time in generating Covid-19 test reports than those of Rawalpindi and Lahore.

The department, however, declared the performance of Lahore’s officials ‘relatively better’.

It stated that the situation was much disturbing at the Nishtar Medical University/Hospital Multan with regard to preparation and issuance of the test reports of those arriving in the city from abroad. It strongly criticised the Nishtar Hospital, Multan, management for taking too much time in issuance of test reports, directing the authorities concerned for action against the officials responsible for the delay.

“The Covid-19 test reports taking 4-5 days after flight landing. Though Nishtar Hospital Multan test capacity is 200 per day, yet it takes 45 days to get Covid-19 reports after sampling”, reads a letter written by the Punjab home department’s Provincial Intelligence Centre (PIC) to the secretaries of both health department.

The PIC in its letter said the reports of the 400 international passengers were pending yet and they were forced to reside in the quarantine centres in Faisalabad in utter uncertainty regarding their health status.

Referring to the situation in Rawalpindi, the letter further pointed out that the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, was taking 48 hours in issuing results of Covid-19 test reports of the expats and others traveling to the country from abroad and quarantined there.

It also criticised the health authorities for not improving test capacity for the suspected Covid-19 patients in Rawalpindi, which was the second city after Lahore reporting the highest number of deaths and confirmed Covid-19 patients.

According to official figures, total 58 patients have died of Covid-19 in Rawalpindi, while 1,471 others tested positive.

The PIC letter lamented that only one lab, managed by Punjab primary & secondary healthcare department, has the capacity of conducting 90 tests daily.

The Punjab home department has asked the health authorities to improve the test capacity, keeping in view the scale of the transmission of the disease across the province.

Meanwhile, people other than those arriving from abroad are also complaining of serious issues in getting their Covid-19 tests done.

A young man,Mohammad Irfan, of Samanabad who was shifted to the Mayo Hospital Lahore after he tested positive for the virus on April 29, said his second report that was to be released on May 12 could not be traced. He said his sample was drawn again on May 19, but still no report was issued so far.

Similarly, two other patients -- Khawar Mahmood and Azhar Iqbal -- are awaiting their second test reports for the last one week or so.

An official source said the test reports of approximately 1,000 Covid-19 suspects and patients were either missing or declared “invalid” causing a great deal of inconvenience and worry to them as many of them would have to spend Eid in quarantine centres or hospitals because of “negligence” on the part of the health authorities.

According to the primary & secondary healthcare department the Covid-19 test reports of total 786 people arriving from abroad were pending with the labs.

Interestingly, out of total 400 delayed reports in Faisalabad, 296 were of those who arrived by two flights on May 14 from UAE, that means they had been waiting for the test results for the last 10 days or so.

Similarly, as per official documents, of 256 passengers arriving at Multan from Jeddah on May 8, reports of 82 were yet to be issued by the Nishtar Hospital.

Of the total 786 passengers, the documents stated, 473 were brought from Masqat and Uganda on May 16 on special flights and quarantined in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2020