Pindi laboratories’ Covid-19 testing capacity to reach 600 tests daily: commissioner

Updated June 25, 2020

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Punjab government is in the process of procuring an auto-extractor to enhance testing capacity from 90 to 600. — AFP/File
Punjab government is in the process of procuring an auto-extractor to enhance testing capacity from 90 to 600. — AFP/File

RAWALPINDI: Although Covid-19 testing in Rawalpindi is slow, with laboratories conducting 110 tests a day, Commissioner retired Capt Mohammad Mehmood said on Wednesday that the city’s testing capacity will be increased to 600 tests daily in a day or two.

Mr Mehmood told Dawn that the Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH) and Holy Family Hospital (HFH) labs carry out 90 tests every day, while 20 tests are sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

However, he said, the Punjab government is in the process of procuring an auto-extractor to enhance testing capacity from 90 to 600.

He added that the number of beds in the Rawalpindi Institute of Urology, BBH and HFH are also being increased.

“Most of the additional beds with be attached to oxygen, as many patients face breathing difficulties. The number of beds at BBH will be increased from 147 to 347, while the beds at RIU will be increased from 80 to 160 and the beds at HFH will be increased from 44 to 64. The National Disaster Management Authority will provide ventilators and portable PCR machines to test patients,” he said.

Asked about health certificates for workers at bakeries and other food outlets, Mr Mehmood said that no sampling has been carried out at bakeries as of Wednesday. He said only the implementation of standard operating procedures is being ensured, “since our teams are committed to contact sampling.”

He said it is not possible to issue certificates to food outlets and their staff declaring them free of the coronavirus, as health experts have said the validity of a negative test is just three to five days.

“This means that once a suspected patient tests negative for Covid-19 by RT PCR, he can test positive after three to five days [depending on exposure]. So no certificate can be issued [stating] that a person is and will remain negative,” he said.

Regarding expensive Covid-19 tests carried out by private laboratories, Mr Mehmood said that two private labs - Teemar and Bahria Hospital in Phase 8 - charge Rs2,000 per test and both are sponsored by the NIH.

“Others charge from Rs6,000 to Rs8,000; they are regulated by the healthcare commission, which takes cognisance of complaints,” he added.

Mr Mehmood said that the administrations of all four districts in Rawalpindi division - Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal and Jhelum - have been asked to ensure food items are available in the market at reasonable prices.

A campaign has also been launched in the division against fake medicines and those involved in charging extra money for drugs used to treat Covid-19.

The Rawalpindi administration, police and health department have arrested a man for allegedly selling Actemra at an exorbitant price, he said. The man, who runs a medical store on College Road, had been selling Rs55,000 injections for Rs150,000 to Rs325,000.

IHRA fixes Covid-19 test rates

Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority (IHRA) on Wednesday fixed the rate of Covid-19 tests and issued a directive to private hospitals, laboratories and collection centres. The directive was issued to curb profiteering.

“All private hospitals, laboratories and collection centres conducting RT-PCR tests are hereby directed to freeze the rates at Rs5,500 for tests using Chinese Kit and Rs6,500 for tests using Roche/Abbot Kit. Premises shall be inspected for compliance by IHRA teams, to elucidate status of compliance with the directives and healthcare services standard requirements of Covid-19,” the directive stated.

It added that premises where noncompliance is observed will be penalised in accordance with rules including deregistration, sealing of premises, fine and imprisonment under the Islamabad Healthcare Regulation Act 2018.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2020