Saturday, April 1, 2023
HomeHealth‘Results of 18 Nov RT-PCR tests awaited’ — Covid surge sees delays,...

‘Results of 18 Nov RT-PCR tests awaited’ — Covid surge sees delays, Delhi officials blame labs

Officials say there is a 3-4 day pendency in RT-PCR test results from government labs, while labs complain per day samples have increased in the latest surge and is stretching their capacity.

Text Size:

New Delhi: Delhi government officials, including district magistrates (DMs) and surveillance officers across the national capital, are complaining that laboratories are taking too long to provide results of the RT-PCR tests, considered the gold standard for detection of Covid-19.

The officials are particularly frustrated with the pendency of over three-four days at government laboratories, ThePrint has learnt.

So much so that last week, the Delhi Health and Family Welfare Department released a formal order, accessed by ThePrint, to ensure “optimum utilisation of lab capacity in both public and private sector”.

Each of the 11 districts have since roped in private laboratories in their areas, in line with directions of the health department, to ensure speedier results and avoid unnecessary delay.

Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain had Friday said “testing has reached a saturation level in Delhi”, while admitting that labs were finding it hard to release RT-PCR results within a day.

A senior government official told ThePrint that the need to involve private labs emerged as the DMs were directed to increase the testing capacity and double the RT-PCR tests last week amid the latest surge.

For their part, labs say the surge in samples needing to be processed is stretching their capacity to deliver to test results quickly.

This isn’t the first time there has been a delay on part of labs to share results of Covid-19 tests. Earlier, in April and May, the government had started issuing notices to laboratories due to inordinate delays in test results leading to confusion.

Also read: 14% of symptomatic people traced in Delhi door-to-door survey not tested for Covid

‘Govt-accredited lab delaying results’

The government-run National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR) in Noida is the accredited laboratory authorised to conduct Covid-19 tests for government hospitals here in Delhi.

District magistrates who carried out a door-to-door survey, which has been extended indefinitely (or until further orders), also send samples of symptomatic persons to the Noida lab. Several of them, however, complained of a delay in conclusive results.

Surveillance officer of West District, Dr Neeraj Kumar, told ThePrint the delay in results from the Noida lab had made it very difficult for his team to compile and analyse the positivity rate in his jurisdiction. Until Friday, the district hadn’t received results for samples since 18 November.

“There had also been a mismatch in the reports so even in the reports we have been receiving, it is difficult to conclude the presence of the virus,” Kumar added. The district has increased RT-PCR testing from 350 to 600-700 tests per day, he further said.

It’s a similar situation in the North West District.

“There is a delay of at least three days in terms of receiving the results,” DM Cheshta Yadav said. The district hasn’t received reports for samples sent to the Noida lab since 23 November.

Yadav said even private labs, which were roped in last week, were taking 48 hours but “at least the reports were coming in faster than the Noida government lab”.

In the South District, there are at least 3,000-3,400 samples being sent for testing every day.

“There has been immense pressure as we were told to double our testing numbers overnight. Plus, arranging an RT-PCR test is more tedious than a rapid antigen test,” a senior official involved in the process, requesting anonymity, told ThePrint.

The official added that the district hasn’t got reports from the Noida lab for tests conducted since 24 November. “Some private labs, however, have been quick in sending results,” the official said. The district has been assigned 10 private labs so that results are not delayed.

South District Magistrate Ankita Chakravorty, who took over as the DM only this week, says she used her experience in her previous posting in Arunachal to ramp up staff, medical equipment as well technicians in the district to ensure a larger number of samples could be sent to the labs.

Authorities at NICPR in Noida, however, blamed a heavy workload for the delay. The Noida lab scientist Dr R. Suresh Kumar said the lab has been under immense pressure to ensure sample results are generated within a short period of time.

Asked about the delay and increasing pendency of samples at the lab, he told ThePrint, “All of sudden we were being sent 8,600 to 9,000 samples a day in contrast to our capacity of about 6,000. The results were uploaded in portals that hospitals couldn’t access. We have communicated this issue earlier as well.”

He added that the intention was only to help society and that the scientists are working day and night to meet the requirements.

Also read: Why Delhi’s third Covid wave is seeing late admissions, longer hospitalisation

Private labs also overburdened

While private laboratories are able to deliver relatively faster than the Noida lab, it has been stressful for them too.

Some have had to increase their staff strength and bring in more medical equipment to ensure results are produced on time, while others are now sharing reports in about 48 hours. Earlier, labs were able to give results of the RT-PCR tests in 24 hours.

“We get samples of about 2,000- 2,500 per day as opposed to 1,200 to 1,205 before the latest surge, so there is bound to be pressure but we try to release the maximum number of reports within 24 hours since we have increased our technical staff,” Dr Bansi Dhar Tarai of Max labs said.

Dang’s Lab, which is among the largest private labs in Delhi, and also sends staff for testing at homes, has also been bearing the brunt.

“Dr Dangs Lab has increased its manpower and augmented the number of extraction and PCR equipment to enable it to stay within the 24 hour timeline provided for reporting,” Dr Arjun Dang, CEO, Dang’s Lab, said.

Lal Path Labs’ Shrey Malhotra said it has been receiving at least 1,000 more samples as opposed to earlier. “Earlier we were getting 3,500 samples per day, however once the positivity increased again, we have been getting 4,500 samples daily,” Dr Malhotra told ThePrint.

Also read: Delhi might be put under night and weekend curfews to curb Covid — AAP govt tells high court


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism

Most Popular