New Delhi: After Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s meeting on 14 June, testing was ramped up exponentially in the national capital.
Data released by the Delhi government Saturday showed that 3,51,909 Covid-19 tests have been conducted in the national capital so far, with 17,533 tests conducted Saturday alone.
At the moment, 40 laboratories in Delhi — 17 government-run and 23 private — have been approved for Covid-19 testing by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
But how easy is it for residents in Delhi to access these tests? ThePrint spoke to five private laboratories and five government hospitals, and got mostly negative responses.
ThePrint also approached Delhi Health Secretary Padmini Singla through text message at around 5:15 pm for a comment, but she had not reverted by the time this report was published.
Most slots booked at private testing facilities
ThePrint called the helpline numbers of five prominent private laboratories — Dr Dangs, SRL Diagnostics, Dr Bhasin Path Labs, Dr Lal PathLabs and Mahajan Imaging.
Of the five, Dr Dangs was unreachable despite repeated attempts.
At SRL Diagnostics, a staff member said the lab is open for testing only till 1 pm Sundays, and most of the slots were pre-booked.
“If it is urgent you can check the drive-through facility at our Vasant Kunj centre, if it is open,” the staff member said. But repeated calls to the Vasant Kunj helpline number remained unanswered.
Dr Lal PathLabs, was “booked until 30 June”. According to its call operator, the lab had also lent its technicians to some hospitals and set up desks, and one could visit one of these. He recommended visiting the Moolchand Hospital or Akash Medical Hospital in Malviya Nagar for a test.
The operator also repeatedly suggested that the presence of symptoms, as mentioned in the ICMR guidelines, was essential to get a test done.
Dr Bhasin Path Labs refused to test altogether Sunday, saying that the staff was on leave. The helpline operator said their slots were also booked for the next two days, and the next slot would only be available Wednesday. The operator also said that the tests were not conducted within the lab’s premises: “We do not collect samples at our labs, please register yourself on the website and you will hear back from us with further details.”
Mahajan Imaging denied they were conducting Covid-19 tests, despite being listed as an approved testing facility online. “We at Mahajan are not conducting Covid tests. But we can help you connect with hospitals that do,” said its operator.
Thirty minutes later, the operator called back and informed that PSRI Hospital at Sheikh Sarai was open for testing between 11 am and 3 pm. She also provided important information about the test — it is mandatory to carry an Aadhaar card and a doctor’s prescription, and that the cost of the test is Rs 2,400 and the result will be delivered in 48 hours.
No testing at government hospitals
ThePrint also contacted five government-run hospitals — Safdarjung Hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital.
At RML Hospital, which runs a 9 am-5 pm testing centre, no tests are conducted Sundays. The doctor on call at the hospital said: “If you have any problems or emergency, please come to the hospital immediately, a doctor will check you and let you know if you need a test.”
On further questioning, she added: “Whether you have a fever or not, the doctors will first check if you fulfil the testing criteria. Only then can you be tested.”
The telephone operator at Safdarjung also said the hospital’s testing facility was shut Sundays, and if needed, the fever clinic could be visited Monday from 9 am to 5 pm.
The helpline numbers at AIIMS and Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital were unreachable.
LNJP Hospital was the only one that gave a positive response. The operator forwarded the call to the hospital’s chief medical officer, who enquired about symptoms. However, she advised that a patient should only visit the hospital if they had persisting symptoms.
“Please come to the hospital only when you have a fever or the symptoms persist. Coming to the hospital will make you vulnerable to infection,” the doctor added.
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