Written by Sakshi Dayal | Gurgaon | Published: June 14, 2020 11:34:53 pm
With all members of the staff – those who tested negative also in quarantine – being unable to carry out their duties, the district health department has been left in a lurch. (Representational)
Officials at Faridabad’s ESIC Medical College and Hospital, where Covid-19 samples have been processed since April 3, will be building a new team to carry out tests, after “around 60%” of the earlier staff at the lab tested positive for the virus earlier this week.
Officials said the first cases emerged on June 5, when two laboratory technicians tested positive. After other staff members were tested in the days that followed, five more technicians and three doctors also tested positive on June 9. The laboratory operates with a staff of 18.
With all members of the staff – those who tested negative also in quarantine – being unable to carry out their duties, the district health department has been left in a lurch.
“We have to hire new people to carry out the work for the next few weeks. It is not easy to hire 15-20 skilled staff in a crisis situation, staff is also not available. So, we have taken some four-five lab technicians from our main lab, and are also asking the district administration to provide some research scientists. To start with a new team, however, we have to train them first as all the staff is not trained to carry out RT-PCR tests. We have started the training and hope we can resume work from Monday,” said Dr AK Pandey, Registrar, Academic.
“We do not know where the earlier staff members contracted the infection from. We took all safety measures at the lab. However, we will review the situation and see how to minimise the exposure even further. We will also ask the new staff to stay on campus rather than travelling from other districts to work, just as a safety measure,” he said.
The lab, however, is not entirely closed, with officials saying that testing is being carried out in emergency cases, such as for samples of persons in ICU, a suspected Covid death, in medico legal cases, or a cesarean delivery. This is being carried out by other faculty at ESIC, and one technician, “who has been trained previously”.
With the laboratory resuming operations with a new team on Monday, however, officials said they will have to start from scratch and “strengthen the team gradually”, taking some time to build up to the figures that the earlier team had reached in terms of testing on a daily basis.
“When we started testing on April 3 after the ICMR approval, we initially started with 50 samples as it was a new team. The next week, we took upto 100-150 samples, then made it 250-300 samples, until a time came when we even achieved around 900 samples on one or two occasions. Usually, however, we were going through 600-700 samples on a daily basis,” said Dr Pandey.
“We will have to build this up again, but we are confident we can manage it. We will start not with 600 samples, but with a lower volume by requesting the team that sends the samples to send fewer numbers so that we can process within 24 hours. Because of this, in the initial week, the samples processed may be lesser. We have to strengthen the team gradually,” he said.
The lab had been receiving samples from multiple districts, including Faridabad, Mahendragarh, and Rewari, with officials saying it was taking them around 24 hours to hand over the sample reports. On days when the numbers were more, the time taken would be longer, they said, adding the reports were, however, always handed over within a “maximum of 36 hours”.
With the lab having asked senior authorities to stop sending samples to them on Monday, and no samples having been sent since Tuesday, the district health department has had to resort to sending these samples for testing to either private laboratories or other districts in Haryana, calling them on a daily basis to coordinate with them regarding their testing capacity.
The Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Faridabad and the District’s Deputy Commissioner did not respond to calls and messages seeking their comments on the matter.
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