Covid-19 cases rising but fever clinics lax in tests

Covid-19 cases spiking but fever clinics lax in RT-PCR tests

Over the past few days, people with fever, cold and cough have found that many of their local urban primary health centres (UPHCs) are no longer collecting swabs for RT-PCR testing. 

A senior official believes that newly hired medical staff are not following procedures.

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According to the government, of the 150 operational fever clinics in the city, 49 did not conduct any RT-PCR tests on August 5. On August 6, 30 did not conduct any RT-PCR tests, despite screening hundreds of people. 

Several fever clinics contacted by DH claimed that testing labs were not accepting samples. One UPHC director said, "Nimhans was refusing to collect samples for the last few days". 

Nimhans strongly denied the charge. “That is a total fabrication. The Nimhans lab is working around the clock. We test 1,200 samples daily. We are doing some of the highest numbers of tests per day in the state,” a senior Nimhans official said.

Dr C N Manjunath, Nodal Officer for statewide testing, said medical staff who were newly hired to fill a spate of vacancies were probably lax on their jobs.

“We are getting many new recruits. They need to be educated on protection and swab collection,” he said, adding that the state was collecting two swab samples from those undergoing testing — one set for the antigen testing and the other as a failsafe for RT-PCR testing. 

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Collectively, while 11,949 people were screened by fever clinics across the city from August 5 to 6, only 3,232 people were subjected to an RT-PCR test. In comparison, 5,142 people were tested using antigen kits.

Dr  Manjunath explained that only certain people qualify for RT-PCR testing, notably those symptomatic who test negative through the antigen method. 

On Thursday, 50-year-old Lalitha (name changed), a resident of RR Nagar zone, was one of those who exhibited severe symptoms like high fever, cough and cold. “She is also diabetic and has hyperthyroidism which makes her extremely vulnerable to Covid-19,” explained her son, Naveen (name changed), who works in public health.

“We took her to an RR Nagar Zone UPHC for Covid-19 testing on Thursday. She tested negative for antigen testing but since she had symptoms, we wanted her to be tested under the RT-PCR method,” Naveen explained.

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The UPHC allegedly declined. “We were told that the testing labs in the city had a massive backlog of samples and were temporarily not accepting new samples,” he added.

He alleged that the UPHC also declared in its report that the patient was asymptomatic. But the staff is said to have rectified it after a strong protest from the family. Official government data shows that the UPHC screened only 52 people on Thursday and subjected only one person to an RT-PCR test.