As the degree colleges in the state of Karnataka will be resuming on Tuesday, the students, teachers, other teaching and non-teaching staff are hustling for a negative test report against Covid-19, tested within a span of 72 hours prior to the joining date. However, managing the testing has been a very ardent task.
The Health Department had issued a notice order on Friday which stated five samples can be pooled along together, thereby assuring the test reports are presented adhering to the time-limit. Though, the pool testing brings three more problems along with its ease and speed.
Even as all districts are presenting lower than 5 per cent TPR, the independent labs are recording higher TPR, which further elevates the period of turnaround time as positive pools need to be subjected to testing for the second time.
“In our hospital, the TPR was 11% in the past 10 days, so we stopped pooling. When we pool five samples and every other pool comes positive, then we had to depool everything,” said Dr P R Rekha, the present Lab director and Consultant pathologist at Narayana Hrudayalaya.
Additional burden on the festive weekend
The second problem is the skeleton staff working on the festive weekend, the labs are given the additional burden of testing the students and teachers and the other staff. And, the pattern is testing fewer samples on the weekend. Though, 99,606 samples were tested in Karnataka, comparing to 1.15 lakh samples testing happens in weekdays.
Dr Rekha added, “Concerns are there about the turnaround time. We’ll decide about pooling on Monday when our entire team is around. We’ve been getting many enquiries from schoolteachers. A law college teacher called on Saturday asking about the turnaround time. Ideally, less than 5% TPR is recommended for pooled testing.”
The large government labs which includes the Nimhans, BMRCI, and Kidwai were working by pooling the samples, revealed the state nodal officer for Covid-19 testing, Dr C N Manjunatha.
BBMP delays the pending payment
The third issue with the pooling tests is the defaulting of BBMP for testing payments. The labs have become highly reluctant about testing any more samples given by the government.
Dr Joel Sundarson, representing Cancyte Technologies, stated, “We have stopped taking samples from the BBMP as it hasn’t yet paid the dues. They promised it this week, if it comes, we’ll take up some of the samples.”
Dr B V Ravikumar, Xycton Diagnostics revealed about their lab being closed on Saturday as the staff had not taken a single holiday in long time and have averted the sample pooling since mid-August. Regarding the payment of dues, Ravikumar said the BBMP had still held the payment of Rs 4.2 crore pending for the Covid tests conducted from mid-August and alongside, a payment of Rs. 80 lakh is due from June-July of the National Health Mission of Karnataka. He stated, “Out of the dues, Rs 24.5 lakh is for depooling and individual tests. When we tested 15,000 samples from the airport and 25 hotels, and 218 pools came back positive, the government refused to pay. As per the circular, passengers had to be charged only Rs 650 per sample tested via pooling. But when the pool tested positive, we had to bear the cost of the additional test.”
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