The party’s outrage against RML coincided with the initiation of a probe against eight testing labs — seven private and one run by the Centre, the National Centre for Disease Control — for allegedly collecting samples against ICMR protocol. The government ordered chief district medical officers to suspend the registration of all phlebotomists — personnel who collect samples — associated with these labs, pending investigation. These labs won’t be able to collect samples for testing on their own and the state would not send them samples for testing.
No backlog of cases now: RML official
On RML’s alleged wrong testing, AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha claimed that the Delhi government had retested 30 samples, a day after the hospital had found them to be positive for Covid-19. “You will be surprised to know that 12 out of 30 were negative and the results for two samples were inconclusive,” he said.
Chadha also alleged that RML was submitting results after delays ranging from three to 31days. “Around 281patients got their results after three days; 210 after four days; 50 after seven days; four after nine days; and some after 31 days. Such violation is unacceptable because this will lead to the disease spreading. People whose results are pending can spread it to many others if they are positive,” he said.
In a tweet, Chadha asked people to avoid going to RML and urged the Centre to take strict action against the hospital.
An official of RML Hospital denied the charges. She pointed out that the gap between sampling and retesting was seven to 14 days, indicating that this could have affected the results. “We are doing quality checks with AIIMS and NCDC and our results are concordant. Our positivity is more as all hotspot cases, family clusters and high-risk contacts of lab-confirmed cases are more at our screening centre. Also, we don’t have any backlog now. That was earlier when kits were not available,” she added. She said they had already given a statement to the Delhi government and Union health ministry.
Doctors at the hospital said such allegations in the middle of a pandemic would only demoralise the healthcare workers who were taking huge risks to manage the patients for the past three months.
Meanwhile, reacting to the allegation of having violated the ICMR protocol in collecting samples, an NCDC official said: “The order seems to be erroneous. They are questioning us for taking samples against ICMR norms. The fact is we don’t collect samples. Also, the state government says test results are taking too long. We get hundreds of samples from across the country daily and it is not possible to process all of them in 24 hours as expected,” said the official from India’s premier institute for research in epidemiology and communicable disease control.
An inquiry has been initiated against labs run by Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Fortis and SRL besides others. Ganga Ram said they have sent a response to the government while Fortis refused to comment.
Lal Pathlabs, which has the maximum testing capacity among private labs, has already been barred from collecting samples in most parts of the city.
The cumulative effect of these decisions will be reduction in the overall testing capacity in the state. Sources said Delhi government has Covid-19 testing facilities at Maulana Azad Medical College and Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences and their combined capacity for daily testing is about 500 only.
Delhi government health officials did not comment on the issue. However, a senior official said these labs weren’t following norms for giving out results in time and sharing exact data with the state and Centre, warranting the action.
In a major shift in testing policy, the Delhi government has been asking labs to test only those people who have symptoms of Covid-19. “Testing capacity is limited. Our labs are overburdened. That’s why we have decided that those who don’t have symptoms of the disease need not be tested even if they are direct contacts of positive cases. Persons with comorbidities, such as diabetes and cancer, will be treated as exceptions,” said an official.
ICMR, country’s top health research body, has categorically stated that asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case have to be tested once between day 5 and day 10 of coming into contact.