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Public labs still lagging behind in virus testing

Shortages of skilled manpower main problem

Published : 13 May 2020 09:58 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 05:50 PM

Due to lack of skilled health technologists, the government laboratories are lagging behind in testing for coronavirus human specimens.

Considering increasing trends in coronavirus infection across the country, the target of testing 10,000 specimens a day has been set. However, due to lack of required number of experienced health technologists the target so far has not been accomplished. Currently, the daily specimen testing capacity of all the laboratories total around 6000.

Experts believe that the exact status of the coronavirus contamination in the country can only be revealed when all suspected people are brought under this voluntary testing facility programme.

It is learnt that out of the existing 38 functioning PCR labs in the country, 10 labs belong to in public universities and autonomous and non-governmental organizations. In addition, another laboratory at Noakhali Science and Technology University (NSTU) has started covid-19 specimen testing from Monday.

The rest are set up in various government hospitals under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. These are basically known as government labs, since the start of the sample test two months ago, work is now underway in 38 labs.

Many of the specimens collected have to wait in queues due to the shortages of manpower in the labs. However, to solve this problem, the director of the National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Center, Prof Dr AKM Shamsuzzaman made some recommendations.

He said that the labs which possess PCR machine are not able to perform their full capacity of testing the specimens because there is a lack of necessary manpower.

Instead he recommended making full use of the university labs and other professional laboratories in order to speed up testing while also strengthen the capacities of other PCR labs.

Professor Kanak Kanti Barua, Vice Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) told Bangladesh Post that every lab should have skilled manpower. Only then it is possible to collect and test more samples in a short period of time.

“We have been able to test more samples than many other labs because of the skilled staff at all levels. We are currently testing on two PCR machines,” said Professor Barua.

On Tuesday the PCR lab at BSMMU and Hospital tested 411 specimens of corona, ICDDR’B, the most trusted and efficient laboratory and research centre, tested 421, at the same time 206 tests have been performed at the Higher Science Research Center of Dhaka University, 292 at the Central Police Hospital, 254 at the Child Health Research Foundation and 100 at the recently established Gazi Covid-19 PCR Lab at Narayanganj.

According to experts, most of the PCR labs set up in government hospitals are new. There is a shortage of skilled manpower to manage these. In addition, there are various types of confusion in collecting samples from the field.

Lack of experienced people in operating the laboratories is also obvious. Although many labs have the capacity, performing lab tests is not going to be extended due to lack of proper specimens and other reasons.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh recorded highest single-day deaths of 19 patients on Wednesday, taking the total number to 269.
In last 24 hours a total of 1,162 people tested positive for the virus which is also the highest number of infected cases in a day.

Until now a total of 17,822 coronavirus patients were detected in Bangladesh. Some 7,900 samples were tested in 41 labs across the country, official sources said. Meanwhile, 214 COVID-19 patients have recovered in the last 24 hours, taking the total recovery number to 3,361.