Govt mulls expanding coronavirus testing facilities in each division

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IEDCR says adequate number of testing kits in stock

The government has announced plans to expand coronavirus testing facilities in all eight divisions to help provide suspected patients with screening facilities from respective localities.

“We are assuming that number of patients may rise further. Keeping that in mind, we are working to expand testing facilities in all divisions,” Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) director Dr. Meerjady Sabrina Flora told the Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday.

“Installation of testing facilities is underway in three divisions, which will be complete within next week. Also, we do plan to introduce it in all divisions,” she said.

Currently, IEDCR is the sole authority in providing testing facilities for coronavirus (Covid-19) in Bangladesh.

“IEDCR will monitor the tests, wherever it is carried out, as it is one of the core duties of the institution,” she added.

She, however, said the facilities would not be expanded to any other centre in Dhaka.

“Three components are essential for a full facility – a bio lab, PCR and skilled person for the lab,” Dr Flora said while explaining why IEDCR monitoring is a must for expansion of facilities in districts.

As reported by Dhaka Tribune correspondents across Bangladesh, hundreds of patients with cold and fever have been flocking to different hospitals every day, demanding a medical test for coronavirus.

However, most hospitals are referring them to IEDCR in Dhaka because of lack of facilities.

But, as per standard procedures, hospital authorities are expected to report a suspected infected person to IEDCR and the local team of the institution will collect the test samples. 

IEDCR is only testing people with coronavirus symptoms, only if the suspected patient came in contact with coronavirus patients or came from a place where coronavirus patients have been detected.

Dr Flora said this process followed is based on the guideline maintained by World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer (PSO) of Department of Medical Entomology of IEDCR, said once a sample from a patient arrives at the lab, technicians use a procedure called Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), to look for the genetic code of coronavirus using a special reagent.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Zahid Malique, in a discussion meeting at the ministry, said they are going to establish corona unit in every district that will ensure collecting information of the infected people, treatment facilities and monitoring of all other facilities in this regard. 

Do we have sufficient testing kits?

Government officials claimed to Dhaka Tribune that there were enough coronavirus testing kits in stock in Bangladesh.

“We are receiving kits from World Health Organization as a regular basis. Also, Singapore and China promised us to provide more kits,” said Flora.

She, however, declined to disclose details on the exact stock of testing kits now available in Bangladesh.

However, sources in the health sector said the number of testing kits in the country will reach around 10,000 by next week, once the consignments promised by different countries arrive.

At present, IEDCR uses testing kits supplied by WHO called “PCR Primary Probe Reagent.”

Is lack of coordination leading towards hampering initial treatment? 

With the nation in fear following possibilities of spreading of coronavirus throughout the country, a number of cases reported in last few days claimed that many patients were denied initial treatment in government hospitals. 

It also came as a surprise that authorities of several tertiary-level hospitals, such as medical college hospitals, were allegedly rejecting patients with symptoms of coronavirus. 

In one case, one such patient died on Tuesday night, who was later found coronavirus negative on Wednesday morning by IEDCR. 

Family members of several patients said their patients were been denied treatment by several hospitals, including Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, Kurmitola Hospital, and many other community and general hospitals in Dhaka. 

When contacted, the line director of Hospital Service Management of DGHS Dr Khurshid Alam told the Dhaka Tribune that a hospital can never reject any patients in any situation.

Dr Khurshid, also the joint focal person for logistics and supplies, said hospital authorities have been directed to ensure basic treatment first, if needed in isolation ward established temporarily in its compound, if any suspected Covid-19 patient arrives. 

As of Thursday, Bangladesh has 17 confirmed cases of Covid-19. Of the total 17 patients, three were earlier released upon recovery while one died on Wednesday.

The virus, which has spread to at least 160 countries of the world, has killed over 8,900 people across the world since it was first reported in China’s Wuhan last December.

Around 219,351 have been infected by Covid-19, a new strain of coronavirus, while 85,749 people have recovered from it.