Rise in testing count delays RT-PCR reports by up to 36 hours leading to possible spread of infection in Pune
Pune: Medical labs are seeing a rise in people seeking Covid tests following new restrictions in place which makes it mandatory for workers to get a negative RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) report. The huge demand for tests is causing delay in furnishing reports which in some cases is almost 36 hours.
While it may not lead to any delay in treatment of critical patients, it delays isolation of Covid positives and asymptomatic patients continuing to spread the infection in the community, according to public health experts.
As of March 30, Pune has 36 RT-PCR and 56 RAT (rapid antigen test) laboratories in the district. As per the presentation by the district collector to the chief secretary, government of Maharashtra, the district has conducted 2,839,453 tests, of which 519,600 are positive which takes the positivity rate to 18.3%. Of this RT-PCR has a positivity rate of 19.29% and RAT of 16.73%.
The collector in the presentation had highlighted that RT-PCR test capacity for the district needs to be increased as National Institute of Virology (NIV) and other central government labs has reduced their RT-PCR testing for district. The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) recently made it mandatory for those in essential services to either get vaccinated or submit a negative RT-PCR report every 15 days.
Pallavi Jain, managing director, Krsnaa Diagnostics Ltd, said, “The new restrictions in place in Pune and also the surge in Covid cases are definitely leading to more demand for testing in the city. Since the sample is collected it takes between 18 and 24 hours. Also, we have been strictly asked by the administration to first provide information, including address in case of positive report, to them before sharing it with the patients. Hence, it takes another six hours. In case of critical patients, we alert the hospital. However, until the SMS is not sent through and the detailed address is not in, the sample testing is put on hold which further delays it. Shortage of staff and the cost capping by the government has further added to the delay.”
Another private city hospital lab manager said, “We have prioritised home sample collection of those bed ridden or critical patients who cannot visit us. We mostly request suspected patients to visit our nearest branch and submit the samples. We have advance booking for two days for home collection for samples and the reports come in by at least 36 hours. We have 2,200-2,300 samples pending for testing.”
Dr HK Sale, executive director of Noble Hospitals, said, “There is definitely a delay in submitting reports. In case of critical patients based on the HRCT (high-resolution computed tomography) we decide the treatment line without awaiting the report. However, in case of asymptomatic or those with mild symptoms, if the results come in late then they continue to spread the infection and the chain of infection continues to grow.”