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Covid-19 testing facilities still very low in remote areas

Kamrun Nahar | May 23, 2020 00:00:00

Covid-19 testing facilities and number of tests are still very low in the remote areas of the country with people heading towards their village homes to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr.

According to government data, coronavirus test is done in 47 laboratories across the country. Of them, 24 are in Dhaka. These labs tested 9,727 samples in the last 24 hours as per the bulletin of DG Health on Friday.

The total number of samples tested is 2,23,841. Of those, 1,45,646 samples were tested in 24 labs in Dhaka and 78,195 samples were tested in 23 labs outside the capital city. The total number of patients is 30,205. According to government sources, of the total patients, 85 per cent are in Dhaka division.

The government is unable to utilise the full capacity of these laboratories due to lack of experts and medical technologists. Many of the labs have already stopped corona tests.

But the government has already announced to increase the number of laboratories to 100 amid the crunch of experts and medical technologists who will run the labs.

Experts said that lack of planning, weak decision-making process and lack of manpower to work in the PCR labs are the main reasons for the low rate of corona tests in the 10th week of first case detection. The low rate of test has created uncertainty for the experts to predict the peak of infection.

Some experts said that none can predict the peak of the curve of infection if this low test rate continues. On the other hand, some experts predict that there is no scope of peak before the last week of July which will continue for several weeks. It is known that there are 60 PCR machines in 42 laboratories. The labs have the capacity to test 5,400 samples if iests are run for one time, 10,400 tests if tests are run for two times and 16,200 test if run in three shifts.

Only 1417 laboratory technologists working against a total 2,182 posts for sample collection and in labs. There are 5165 medical technologists at the six branches now working in government sector against 7,920 posts.

Of the total medical technologists, 150 have already been corona infected of whom 130 are lab technologists and 20 are radiologists who do X-ray and CT scan of the Covid-19 patients.

Talking to the FE, former secretary general of Bangladesh Medical Technologists Association Selim Mollah said that at least four laboratory technologists are required for one machine in one shift. If three shifts are run, there will be a need of 12 laboratory technologists for one lab.

"We have 15,000 unemployed medical technologists who passed from government-approved institutions. The government can recruit them during this pandemic to solve the test problem," he maintained.

The government has already announced to recruit 5,000 medical technologists as per the instruction of the Prime Minister. But there is no visible progress in that regard, Mr Selim added. He said that 90 of the laboratory work is done by the technologists. Radiologists are required to do X-ray of the serious Covid patients and CT scan of the patients in ICU.

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