Labs conducting PCR tests operating at slow pace

By Vyshnavy Velrajh

Laboratories involved in PCR tests to detect Covid infected people are operating at a slow pace, the Association of Medical Laboratory Technologists has charged.

Chairman of the Association Ravi Kumudesh refuted reports on broken PCR machines and told Colombo Gazette that the delay in PCR test results is due to the manual process followed by health authorities at present.

Pointing out the Laboratories under the Health Ministry operate only for 08-hours per day, he said the Ministry is refusing to permit the 24-hour operation of labs due to issues with regard to overtime payments.

As a result, PCR samples are tested only once a day, as opposed to the capacity of at least twice a day, he said.

Ravi Kumudesh further explained that PCR tests are processed and the results are obtained within a period of 16- hours.

However, the process of the samples thereafter being sent to the Virologist at the Medical Research Institute of Sri Lanka and then to the Regional Epidemiologist, and then to the Medical Officer of Health of the relevant area, and thereafter to the Public Health Inspector of the area, is conducted manually.

“This time-consuming process which is conducted manually and on the availability of the relevant official is the cause for the delay in the reports reaching infected people,” he said.

The Chairman of the Association of Medical Laboratory Technologists pointed out that another reason for the delay in PCR test results was the Reagents provided for Covid tests.

He said the Health Ministry at present mostly provides only Reagents that are compatible for the machines at the Medical Research Institute of Sri Lanka.

Stating that Reagents not tallying with other machines and some substandard ones are also being issued, Ravi Kumudesh said this too causes a delay in testing and backlog of PCR reports.

Health authorities have cited the backlog of PCR tests and results as a key reason for a high number of COVID-19 infected people being reported from various Districts over the past few weeks. (Colombo Gazette)