COVID19 Test

Officials kept mum about machine that could test 140 samples daily

Published On: April 7, 2020 03:05 AM NPT By: Santosh Pokharel

Machine brought in helicopter tests only 12 samples

POKHARA, April 7: It has come to the fore that officials at Pokhara Hospital and Research Center kept mum over an efficient machine at the hospital which is capable of testing 140 samples for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). It has been speculated that they acted ignorant over the machine in order to avoid possible hassles on their way if it was revealed that 'the machine is in working condition'.

Stating that there is a lack of machines to test Covid-19, the provincial government had asked the federal government to send it such machines. Last week, the federal government delivered a portable machine, some testing kits and other materials in a helicopter, which are now at the hospital and has been testing Covid-19 cases. However, according to some staffers at the hospital, there was no need to bring any machine from Kathmandu. The machine already in the hospital was far efficient. This alerted the officials of the Health Directorate of Gandaki Province and the blame game started. The officials say that the hospital authority remained tight-lipped about the machine 'to get rid of workload'.

According to an official at the health directorate, the machine brought from Kathmandu is far less efficient and yet the old machine would not have come into operation if enough pressure had not been created. "Some staffers and technicians talked about it," he said.

Technicians who came from Kathmandu for testing Covid-19 suspects checked the machine and found it in perfect condition. Earlier, it was also rumored that the machine was out of order.

According to the official, who requested anonymity, there was a need for some chemicals for testing Covid-19 suspects and the technicians from Kathmandu had carried those chemicals with them. So, after using the chemicals, testing of the disease was simply flawless in the machine. "Now, both, the new one brought from Kathmandu and the old one which was in the hospital are being used for rapid tests," he informed.

The new portable machine can test 12 samples in a day but the old machine, which the hospital received two years ago and had been testing HIV and other cases, tests 140 samples in two shifts every day. The old machine is certified by the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, Dr Arjun Acharya, director of the hospital, stated that it is not just the hospital's fault. The government could have taken the initiative and checked whether it worked, he added. "Some software had to be updated and then it worked. We earlier thought it wouldn't work," he said. "But the government could have brought in some experts and get it checked. It didn't do that. We were simply not aware that it works for Covid-19 as well," he added.

However, some staffers at the hospital, who didn't' want to be named, reported that the officials were earlier telling that they could test Covid-19 at Pokhara only if need be. But when cases started rising and the scenario changed, nobody then talked about the machine.

Dr Binod Bindu Sharma, director at the Directorate of Health of Gandaki Province, stated that the directorate was not aware of the status of the machine. "Only after technicians tested it, it came to the fore," he said. "And after they fixed a few things, it worked," he added.

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