Migrants labourers on their 24th day at a quarantine centre at Baghmara in Dhanbad on Sunday.(Chandan Paul/HT PHOTO)
Migrants labourers on their 24th day at a quarantine centre at Baghmara in Dhanbad on Sunday.(Chandan Paul/HT PHOTO)

In Jharkhand, delayed testing strands migrants in quarantine centres

Some of the inmates have been stuck in the quarantine centres for the last 25 days waiting to know their Covid-19 status.
By Bedanti Saran and Subhash Mishra| Edited by Sabir Hussain | Hindustan Times, Ranchi/Dhanbad
PUBLISHED ON JUN 07, 2020 09:30 PM IST

After gruelling journeys to return home, many migrants lodged in government quarantine centres across Jharkhand now find themselves stranded due to the inordinate delay in testing of samples that sometimes take over 15 days even as the government struggles to boost testing rate.

Some of them have been stuck in these centres for the last 25 days waiting to know their Covid-19 status while some cases have emerged where many inmates have been released from quarantine even before their confirmatory test reports came.

As of June 6, there were 70,655 people in institutional quarantine across Jharkhand. There have been reports of clashes between inmates and guards at some quarantine centres in Sahebganj and Singhbhum districts.

The return of migrant workers from different states to Jharkhand has increased the pace of sample collection. But it has also created a huge backlog of untested samples as the state has only seven real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines installed in four government owned hospitals. These machines together test 2,000 samples on average every day.

As on June 6, Jharkhand had a backlog of 9,599 untested samples.

Jharkhand health minister Banna Gupta said the government is trying to boost the state’s testing capacity.

“In order to ramp up our testing capacity, 30 Truenat machines have already been installed at all 24 district Sadar hospitals and six government owned medical colleges and hospitals. Through these machines, we will be able to sort out negative patients in no time. Swab samples, which are tested positive on Truenat, will then be sent for testing on RT-PCR machines for final confirmation.”

The minister also said that the government ordered 30 more Truenat machines that can test four samples in an hour. As per norms, a sample that tests positive on a Truenat machine needs to be retested on RT-PCR machine for confirmation. But, there is no requirement of retest if it turns negative on Truenat.

Instances of many migrants now stranded in quarantine centres even after completion of mandatory 14-day period due to delay in testing have emerged from Dhanbad, Hazaribag, Ramgarh and other districts.

As many as 14 migrant workers, who have been staying in Dhanbad’s Baghmara block quarantine centre since their return from Maharashtra and Gujarat on May 13, feel cheated as Covid-19 reports of their samples have not arrived even after 25 days.

They have completed the mandatory 14-day quarantine period and ought to be released.

With patience running thin, one of the migrants in the quarantine centre said, “We pray to God to infect us with coronavirus so that we can get rid of this quarantine centre. We have seen many positive patients get cured and released from hospital even in four to six days. We are healthy but still in quarantine.”

Medical officer in-charge of Baghmara CHC-cum-nodal officer of quarantine centre Dr Manish Kumar said, “We had sent several reminders to testing authorities at Patliputra Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), Dhanbad, seeking test reports of these 14 migrants as they have completed their 14-day quarantine period on May 28.”

But the PMCH says testing quarantine centre inmates has the lowest priority.

“Some test reports of Baghmara quarantine centre have been sent and some are in process. We test samples collected from 11 districts leading to delay. Priority is given to samples collected from dead bodies, people admitted in isolation ward and then to people staying in quarantine centres,” PMCH principal, Dr Shailendra Kumar said.

In PMCH testing lab, over 4,000 samples including 1715 of Dhanbad district are waiting to be tested.

There have been more shocks from Hazaribag and Ramgarh where 10 Covid-19 patients were shown recovered even before the test results of their first swab samples taken could come. All of them had tested positive.

Samples of Hazaribag’s five suspects were taken on May 23 during their stay in institutional quarantine but test reports came after 14 days on June 5.

In the meantime, after spending 12 days in quarantine, their second samples were taken and tested locally on Truenat machine, as per ICMR guidelines, which disclosed negative results.

Finding that the patients had recovered before receipt of their first test reports, the hospital authorities discharged them on June 2.

“We had sent samples taken on May 22 and May 23 to Jamshedpur and Ranchi for testing on RT-PCR machines. But their results came on June 5,” said Hazaribag civil surgeon Dr Sanjay Jaiswal.

He added, “Of the total 26 people tested positive on June 5, five had recovered and discharged three days ago. Since, these five patients had completed the 14-day quarantine period and found to be asymptomatic, their second samples were taken and tested negative locally on Truenat machine on June 2. The hospital authorities, therefore, discharged them even before the confirmatory reports came on Friday.”

Ramgarh also reported a similar case where five suspects tested positive on June 6. They were, however, released much before this disclosure.

“Samples of these five institutional quarantined suspects of Gola block were taken long back but their confirmatory test results came on Saturday. Due to delay in results, re-sampling was done in which test results turned negative. They were therefore discharged,” said Ramgarh deputy commissioner Sandeep Singh.

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