24-hour operation being considered to reduce wait for COVID-19 test results

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Given the backlog of COVID-19 tests to be processed, the Government is considering a 24-hour operation in an effort to reduce the wait time for results.

Dr Pheona Mohamed-Rambaran, Director of the Georgetown Public Hospital’s medical laboratory, given the recent intensification of testing countrywide by the Health Ministry, more test samples are being processed.

“Based on what we are seeing, there are a lot more samples being taken; on average, we will get between 200-300 samples daily. However, our laboratory’s capacity currently is only able to test maybe a maximum of 140, so there is always that backlog of samples waiting to be tested.”

Dr Mohamed-Rambaran explained that one crucial way of addressing the backlog is to train more staff.

To this end, the Ministry, in collaboration with PAHO/WHO, has begun training more Medical Laboratory Technologists. Essentially, at least 18 laboratory technologists will be available to be placed on rotation to process test samples.

The trainees will come from regional hospital laboratories, private laboratories and other Government facilities with labs and machines that can process the COVID-19 samples.

“With the training that we have for the staff, it is hoped that maybe within the next week or two, we can improve and increase our capacity to 300 samples. That also means we would have to extend the hours of services, which means we will have to increase the number of teams that we have working because the ultimate aim is to work 24 hours.” Dr Mohamed-Rambaran explained.

Over the last week, the Ministry has been extensively planning and exploring ways in which teams can be made available to facilitate the ramped-up testing exercise.

Consideration has also been given to training and drafting-in of other laboratory technologists that are currently under-utilised, to lend support to the thrust of the National Public Health Reference Laboratory.  (Extracted and modified from the Department of Public Information)

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