GMOA threatens to withdraw from Health Ministry technical team

The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) has threatened to withdraw from the Health Ministry’s technical team handling Covid operations.

GMOA General Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge told reporters today that the Association will withdraw if the Ministry fails to adhere to its suggestions for the containment of the latest coronavirus outbreak.

He called on the Health Ministry to implement the GMOA’s suggestions with regard to containing the virus as soon as possible, while urging for the GPS mapping of COVID-19 data to be implemented by the end of this week.

The GMOA will withdraw from the Health Ministry’s technical team handling Covid operations if they fail to address the request by the end of this week, Dr. Aluthge said.

The Association has repeatedly proposed suggestions to the Health Ministry to control and mitigate the coronavirus outbreak, while the Ministry is yet to respond to the proposals.

The GMOA handed over a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today, consisting of an 08-point proposal on areas of concern which are considered to be of paramount importance in controlling and mitigating the current outbreak.

“We observe that a failure in implementation of ‘border crossing governance’ resulted in the COVID-19 spreading across the country through supply chains. A similar situation can be expected from home delivery services and especially trading vehicles which operate in areas with restriction / curfew. As such to reinforce border crossing governance as mentioned in the ‘GMOA COVID-19 Exit Strategy’ submitted to the President on 4th of April 2020 and incorporated in to the guidelines prepared jointly by the Health Ministry and GMOA,” the Association said.

The GMOA highlighted the importance of GPS mapping of COVID-19 data to make decisions timely and efficiently. The GMOA together with the Ministry has developed a GPS mapping system which will enable health authorities to recognize potential ‘red zones’ rapidly with increased accuracy. The GMOA believes this system will ultimately be helpful in implementing an efficient and successful zonal management strategy.

Accurate, timely, and effective zonal lockdown/ restriction procedures will prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka and help contact tracing and control of pandemic.

“Lock out” parameters need to be formulated in a transparent manner and communicated properly to build up public confidence, public contribution ad accountability for safeguarding their zones, the Association said in its proposal.

The GMOA further said that it has recently observed that a leading private hospital in Colombo managed to achieve a daily PCR capacity of 2000 tests, with only 2 functioning PCR machines, within a short period of time. In this context, it is disappointing to note that the Health Ministry with 20 allocated PCR testing centres is yet to achieve the daily minimum PCR requirement, which is essential to effectively manage the current outbreak in the country.

The Association also highlighted the necessity of an audit to monitor the capacity, capability, and efficiency of PCR testing which provide the basis of COVID-19 public health decision making.

The GMOA proposed for the test results to be placed under 3 categories, namely timely PCR reports which are received within 24-hours, delayed PCR reports which are received between 24-48 hours, and outdated PCR reports which are received after more than 48-hours.

“We expect this audit format will result in maintaining over 90% of the results between timely and delayed reports. Since PCR sensitivity falls around 70%, “test, test, test” strategy should be considered under the proposed audit”, it said.

The Association further said that random community testing formal guidance should be issued in relation to high risk category and routine surveillance.

The Epidemiology Unit has recommended to maintain a minimum PCR capacity of over 10,000 per day with a buffer capacity of over 100,000 testing physical elements at the meeting chaired by the Health Minister, it said.

The GMO called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to consider the proposals of the Association with a view of making necessary interventions in order to achieve control and mitigation of the current outbreak effectively and efficiently. (Colombo Gazette)