Serious discrepancies have been unearthed in the COVID-19 testing in Sindh
KARACHI: Expressing serious concerns over the quality and number of COVID-19 tests being conducted by the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS), Jamshoro, the Sindh health department officials on Thursday directed Karachi’s district health officers to take maximum advantage of five leading public COVID-19 testing laboratories in the city and send samples to them for testing instead of transporting them out of city.
The health department also asked the officials of Civil Hospital Karachi, Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), University of Karachi and others public laboratories in Karachi to enhance their COVID-19 testing capacity and conduct more tests after it was emerged that the LUMHS lab was conducting more tests than the 25 public and private labs in Karachi.
Serious discrepancies were unearthed in the COVID-19 testing in the province, where it emerged that the LUMHS labs in Hyderabad and Karachi conducted between 7,000 to 10,000 tests on a daily basis as the district health officers were sending most of the samples to the LUMHS Jamshoro instead of sending them to five leading public labs in the city for COVID-19 PCR tests.
Senior pathologists associated with the public and private labs in Karachi also expressed serious doubts on conducting 8,000 to 10,000 tests by a single lab in a day, saying this could not be possible even for the National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad or any other lab in Lahore, Karachi or any other city of the country.
During the meeting with the district health officers of Karachi, the officials of public labs, Director General Health Sindh Dr Juman Bahoto, Director Health Karachi Dr Akram Sultan, officials of Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Sindh and others, Sindh Secretary Health Zulfiqar Shah asked as to why most of the Covid-19 samples were being sent to the LUMHS labs in Jamshoro and Karachi and not to the five leading public laboratories, including DUHS Ojha lab, PMCD Lab of University of Karachi, Indus Hospital Lab, JPMC lab and Civil Hospital Karachi lab, which had the combined capacity of conducting around 10,000 to 12,000 Covid-19 tests per day.
“The provincial health secretary directed all the public labs in Karachi to enhance their testing capacity, while asking the DHOs to send more samples to these labs as they were capable of doing quality testing,” an official of the Sindh health department told The News.
The Sindh health department officials disclosed to The News that serious discrepancies were unearthed in the quality and quantity of Covid-19 tests being conducted through the District Health Officers (DHOs) and some officials of the health department, who were involved in the purchase of testing kits, consumables and logistical cost incurred on the Covid-19 tests.
“For instance, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) lab is conducting around 300 to 500 tests on a daily basis but its data is not being reflected in the Covid-19 situation report of Sindh,” an official of the health department said, adding that there was a huge difference between the Covid-19 testing data in Sindh’s daily situation reports and the figures provided to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).
The official maintained that senior molecular scientists and pathologists expressed serious reservations on the quality of tests being conducted in the province as one of the labs was performing more tests than all the other labs, adding that there were also allegations of fake reporting by some particular labs.
“Some DHOs claim that one of the leading public labs did not find even a single positive case in hundreds of samples they sent to that particular lab. But when that lab was asked to explain, the lab officials said they were not responsible for faulty samples and could not report people Covid-19 positive without finding virus in the samples,” the official added.
Denying its role in the purchase of Covid-19 testing kits, the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) said their labs were functioning in 28 districts of Sindh and they were capable of conducting thousands of Covid-19 tests, adding most of which were being carried out free of charge.
A spokesman for the LUMHS also claimed that fake release of Rs350 million to the LUMHS had nothing to do with the University’s administration.