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Private laboratories unprepared for COVID-19 tests

COVID-19 tests

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Private providers says they wouldn’t be able to jump in immediately and start offering COVID-19 tests should the number of people requiring the tests spiral out of control today.

Michael Kamya, who heads the Microbiology Lab at Lancet Laboratories Uganda says while they have the personnel who can conduct the tests, they would require some training from the Health Ministry if they are to conduct the tests.

He explains that the current real time PCR technique used by UVRI to test samples is expensive and may not make economic sense to private providers. Kamya explained that if PCR tests were to be conducted by Lancet, the samples would have to be transported either to Kenya or South Africa for confirmation.

He says private providers can be helpful if the much cheaper and easy to do rapid tests are introduced. Last week, as the Health Ministry was providing an update about the disease which has already infected 52 people in Uganda. Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu, the Director Uganda Virus Research Institute said the tests are actually very easy to do and that they hope to enroll some private providers in future when the need arises.

On his part, Stephen Kiyimba, the Managing Director Ebenezer Clinical Laboratory Services said they have the equipment but this being a new virus, they don’t have the specific reagents for coronavirus tests. He says if private providers sought to buy them by themselves, it would be quite costly considering the high demand globally.

He however noted that the Health Ministry hasn’t yet alerted them about the likelihood of requiring their services at any point in the near future. Grace Kiwanuka, the Executive Director Uganda Healthcare Federation an entity that brings together private healthcare providers told Uganda Radio Network early this week that they are in discussions with the Health Ministry to come up with modalities that will allow private providers to be able to provide such services as tests.

“Private facilities are not equipped to test for COVID-19 at this time, we await accreditation. While we await this, we are able to screen and identify high risk or suspect cases,” he said. Already she said some of their members are undergoing training using the modules provided by the Health Ministry.

The Ministry is set to test some 657 individuals who are under institutional quarantine and 855 contacts of the confirmed cases. The number of people requiring a test keeps increasing as more contacts are identified. Experts say the number of people getting infected could peak in May and June. By this time they predict a lot more people will be testing hence requiring an increased number of laboratories that can test.



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