Huge delays in Covid-19 test results

Huge delays in Covid-19 test results

Huge delays in Covid-19 test results
11 MAY 2020 |

Two Cape Town doctors have independently said that Covid-19 results from the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) are taking at least a week to reach patients. Private sector tests are now taking up to 72 hours.

One of the doctors, who works in a public sector hospital, said that there is a backlog of about 10,000 Covid-19 tests at the Green Point NHLS facility in Cape Town.

The doctors said that the delay in test results makes the contact tracing process a lot more difficult.

“The utility of the community screening and testing is close to zero now but continues to be pushed by the Department of Health. It’s causing huge delays in test results for hospitalised patients. So this strategy is actually impairing service delivery,” said one of the doctors.

“Completely insane,” he said.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has also written to President Cyril Ramaphosa expressing concern over the delayed tests. “Policy decisions, such as the decision by the Department of Labour that a person must test negative before being allowed to return to work and other government departments requesting testing for their staff members, place additional strain on the system and further compound the problem,” he wrote on Twitter.

Western Cape Health Department spokesperson Mark Van der Heever said that the backlog is national.

“As the Western Cape, and other provinces, ramp up testing, they are finding it challenging to keep up and process these tests, resulting in a nationwide backlog in the results,” said Van der Heever.

Once a person tests positive, the Health Department immediately identifies their contacts and screens and tests them, after which they have to be quarantined or self-isolated.

“The delay in results delays this process and puts pressure on these systems when results are released in larger batches as they process the backlogs,” Van der Heever explained.

Van der Heever said that there has been an average of about 1,600 people tested per day over the past 14 days in the Western Cape.

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