As the number of COVID-19 cases is on an upward climb in the district, testing facilities, especially at the K. A. P. Viswanathan Government Medical College (KAPVGMC) are feeling the weight of the increasing workload.
While the team processing the tests was sizeable last year, many have returned to their regular duties, while those appointed on contract-basis were also relieved of the duty.
The number of samples lifted across the district, on an average day is around 4,500 per day. The testing facility at the KAPVGMC can process 1,600 tests at once, which means they are doing the same routine at least three times. With the Post-Graduate students preparing for upcoming examinations, the laboratory is looking for a boost in manpower.
In 2020, nearly 80 people were deputed to the team, however, with the resumption of other testing units including a TB-culture facility at the college, they have all returned to resume their initial responsibilities, doctors said. Members appointed through the National Health Mission too, left after their contract period was completed. Around 30 team members are running the show now, putting in long hours, sources said.
While a few private laboratories continue to conduct and process COVID-19 tests, a large number of the load is borne by the KAPVGMC facility.
“Only those whose family members had tested positive earlier, or people with travel requirements go to private facilities. Nearly 90% of the samples are processed at the testing facility at the medical college,” a senior health official said.
Speaking to The Hindu, Gnanaguru Pichaimani, Head, Department of Microbiology at the KAPVGMC, said that he has written a request letter via the District Collector and the Dean to the Health Secretary seeking more hands. He also plans to convene a coordination meeting on a planned way of executing sample collection. “Instead of taking nasal swabs at random locations, the authorities must plan and execute selectively. Areas where patients have already tested positive, areas with a high viral load must be focussed,” he said. Due to the unpredictable nature of the samples, they are also unable to conduct pooled testing. “Even if one of the samples in the pool show positivity, then all of it must be re-tested,” he said.