Staff trouble hits pvt labs, testing still to peak in city

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New Delhi: Covid-19 testing remained low in Delhi on Wednesday because of delays in staff registrations that prevented some laboratories from beginning sample collection two days after lieutenant governor Anil Baijal reversed a Delhi government and allowed seven labs to conduct tests for the disease again, multiple representatives of the labs said.

On average, 6,129 samples were being tested during the week ending May 31. This came down to an average of 5,590 tests daily during the week that ended on June 7, data from the daily health bulletin shows. The tests conducted dropped from 5,042 on June 7 to 3,700 on June 8, the lowest since the first week of May. They again rose to 5,464 on June 9 but fell to 5077 tests on Wednesday.

With Baijal’s order, Delhi’s capacity for testing increased by about 8,000 tests daily but the representatives said the capacity cannot be utilised unless all private labs start testing.

Baijal’s order allowed Lal PathLabs, City X-Ray and Scan Clinic, Prognosis Laboratory, SRL Diagnostics, Star Imaging Path Laboratory, Pathkind Labs, and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to recollect samples. The Delhi government on June 5 served show cause notices to the seven labs for testing asymptomatic patients “without following testing protocols”.

Dr Lal PathLabs and SRL Diagnostics said they did not collect samples on Wednesday and would be unable to say when will they begin doing so. “We cannot test in Delhi until our personnel, who collect samples are registered with the Delhi government. That registration is not complete for all districts yet. We only do home collections for Covid-19. So they have to be registered for them to use the government [testing] app,” said Dr Vandana Lal, whole-time director, Dr Lal PathLabs.

Dr Lal PathLabs is the largest privately-owned chain of laboratories in the country and has the highest testing capacity in the city, about 4,000 samples daily.

When called, SRL Diagnostics lab executive said “We are not testing covid 19 samples now. We may start soon.”

City X-Ray and Scan Clinic and Star Imaging Path Laboratory had started collecting samples. Representatives of Prognosis Laboratory and PathKind Labs did not answer calls from HT for comments.

Gen X Diagnostics had not also started collecting samples while CRL Diagnostics said they will start doing so in a couple of days.

Officials said NCDC has also started receiving samples from the government hospitals.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s apex health research body, has approved 16 government and 22 private laboratories in Delhi for Covid-19 testing.

Among other labs, Lifeline Laboratory said they cannot accept Covid-19 samples because they were running at full capacity. Dr Dangs Laboratory was also not accepting home collection bookings on Wednesday.

Many complained that the red-tapism was delaying testing of lots of people with Covid-19 symptoms.

“Why Covid 19 testing is not being provided by private laboratories in Delhi? I am trying for the test for my uncle since four days and every lab is saying call after sometime. Tests are not available, procedure for reporting to government is not clear” tweeted Nitin Anand, an engineer, on Wednesday.

Anand said his uncle has been running a fever and has a bad cough for a week. “I first put his symptoms on the Aarogya Setu app but we did not get any calls from health workers. Then I called 1075 helpline which went unanswered. Finally, my uncle’s physician recommended a Covid-19 test because all other tests are normal but all the private labs are asking me to call later. There seems to be a lot of confusion. Precious time is being lost,” he said.

“Phlebotomists have to be registered in all 11 districts. If they submit the documents, the registration should happen in 24 hours. There’s no such delay from our end,” a government spokesperson said.

The testing process is complicated. People who want to get tested will have to go to a doctor for a prescription, for a test, get a referral form signed by that doctor, and then look for a laboratory that will test them. Even if they did manage to get these documents, getting tested would be a tedious process because all private laboratories are not functioning. The option for those who want to get tested is then to go to the hospitals or testing centres directly.

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