PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department has made Covid-19 test compulsory for patients prior to undergoing surgery at public sector hospitals to know the exact quantum of the infection among the people.
The measure has been taken in the fulfilment of the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation in April.
“Today, on the first day of reopening of OPD after its closure in April, four of the five patients admitted for ENT surgeries turned out to be positive for Covid-19 in Ayub Medical Complex Abbottabad. All the patients will undergo coronavirus testing prior to their operations,” a senior health official told Dawn.
According to him, the Covid-19 has now become part of the pre-screening for all patients undergoing surgeries, like hepatitis B and C.
The WHO has been urging the provincial health authorities to escalate Covid-19 testing as the pandemic is still around and more testing is the only way to know about its incidence.
Measure meant to ascertain number of infected people
The province has now attained the capacity to conduct 8,000 tests per day but there is shortage of swabs and the health department has been trying to collect more samples.
Last week, the health department established special counters at the hospitals to subject patients with respiratory ailments and having flu-like symptoms to compulsory testing. Fifty per cent of such patients in Khyber Teaching Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex test positive for Covid-19 on average per day.
Health officials said that the province conducted 1,382 tests on August 13; 1,579 on August 12; 1,597 on August 11; and 1,659 on August 10. They said that establishment of special counters would lead to increase in testing that was presently less than what the WHO and national guidelines recommended.
They said that last week, National Command and Operations Centre recommended setting up special counters to know about the scale of the pandemic through enhanced testing. On August 12, the province recorded only 88 cases and no person died of the coronavirus.
The officials said that increased testing was meant to ascertain if the virus had become less infective or patients were not detected due to less testing. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1,235 persons have passed away due to the virus with a total of 35,000 cases recorded so far. There is more need to scale up testing to know the prevalence of Covid-19.
“Otherwise, we can see a second hot wave of the pandemic which can cost more human lives,” said officials. They said that NCOC also asked all the provinces to increase testing especially after Eidul Azha to know about the number of infected people.
They said that after Eidul Fitr, the hospitals were overcrowded by the patients and the seriously-ill patients didn’t find Covid-19 beds because of non-adherence to the social distancing measures. They said that they feared the replay of Eidul Fitr on Eidul Azha too because people usually ignored standard operating procedure. To judge the situation, more testing was important, they added.
“After starting the general OPDs and elective operations, we would be able to do more testing of patients as kits are available at the hospitals free of cost and results are prepared the same day,” said officials. They added that health department was facing difficulties in contact tracing of the confirmed patients because people avoided being tested.
“However, the people coming to hospitals with general ailments are willing to be tested. In this way, we can witness increase in the tests,” they said.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has so far conducted 226,883 tests; Sindh 852,575; Punjab 801,298; Islamabad 212,002 and Balochistan has conducted 66,107 tests.
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2020