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Medical Technologists oppose private sector COVID testing

ECONOMYNEXT – Questions are being raised as to why the government is to handover some of the testing of possible COVID 19 patients to the private sector when the full capacity of the state to conduct these tests is yet to be utilized.

The Association representing the Government Medical Laboratory Technologists in a letter to the Director-General Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe says that there is no requirement for the private sector services to be used because of the excess capacity in the state sector.

Jasinghe told reporter that the country had recorded the highest number of COVID 19 tests yesterday April 23. The total number was 1,104 tests.

About half of those tests were done at the Peliyagoda Fish market and all of them had come back negative.

The Secretary to the Technologists Association Sanjeewa Sirimanne says that the state health sector has the capacity to comfortably conduct more than 3,000 PCR tests per day.

He points out that between April 8 and 21 only 6,169 PCR tests were done, an average of 440 per day.

That average has risen in recent days at the government has ramped up testing.

“That is way below capacity,” Sirimanne told EconomyNext.

He said that only the Anuradhapura laboratory is working around the clock and had done some 937 tests during this period.

“We have told the DG that we are all willing work 24-hours to increase testing.”

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Sirimanne warned that handing over testing to the private sector would be risky as some patients would be able to influence private hospitals not to reveal that they were infected.

“This would be a problem when dealing with an epidemic,” Sirimanne pointed out.

Jasinghe initially rejected the idea of the private sector conducting testing because “they will turn it into a business.”

He now says there will be “strict guidelines for testing and recording” for the private sector.

The department has also said that it will need to use the private sector only if the country runs out of capacity for testing in the state sector. (Colombo, April 24, 2020)