Lack of clarity on testing keeps COVID-19 suspects on the edge

The rising cases of COVID-19 in the State has kept people anxious. So, it is natural for those developing symptoms like fever, sore throat or cold to seek immediate testing to know if they are infected by the virus. However, most of them are refraining from approaching government hospitals.

The reason seems to be a gaping information gap that is leaving people confused about the hospital they must approach to give swab samples for testing. Moreover, some fear that they might contract the infectious disease, if they already don’t have it, upon visiting a government hospital. Or, that they might be admitted to the hospital when their samples are collected for testing.

Most people seem to be aware that samples are collected at Sir Ronald Ross Institute for Tropical and Communicable Diseases (Fever Hospital), Nallakunta. Social workers, who work with the homeless in basthis of Hyderabad, said as per their knowledge, samples are exclusively collected at Fever Hospital. However, they are also collected at the District Hospital in King Koti.

Doctors at the two hospitals assess a suspected patient’s symptoms and health condition, and decide if a test is required. People with COVID-19 symptoms or high risk contacts of a coronavirus-positive patient can walk into the hospital for tests.

Besides the Fever Hospital and District Hospital in King Koti, if anyone with symptoms approaches Basthi Dawakhanas or Urban Primary Health Centre (UPHC), they are referred to either Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital in Mehdipatnam, or any other health facility to undergo tests. “Our staff directs the suspects,” a health official said.

Superintendent of Fever Hospital K. Shankar said when samples are collected from suspected patients, they are admitted at the hospital until results are received. This brief admission is what some people seem to fear.

Senior officials in the Health department said the condition of a few COVID-19 patients worsened in matter of a few hours and they needed constant monitoring. “The suspects are admitted since early detection of their health complications, in case they have COVID, helps save their lives,” an official said.

Dr Shankar said that if someone tests negative, they are sent home. If results turn up positive, the place of isolation (hospital or home) depends on severity of the infectious disease. Samples are collected at the hospital twice a day after completing paper work.

Doctors assured that microbiologists who collect samples are trained to avoid cross-contamination among patients and suspects, hence people need not fear approaching a government hospital to give samples.

Corporate hospitals

Of late, some symptomatic persons and high-risk contacts are approaching corporate hospitals for testing. Doctors there said they prescribe a CT scan of chest, as per guidelines. “If pneumonia is observed, then their oxygen levels are checked using Arterial Blood Gas tests and Oximeter. If there are abnormalities, they are referred for further tests. The medical reports have to be cited along with the reference. All these tests cost around ₹5,000,” a corporate hospital doctor said, on the condition of anonymity.

Samples from corporate hospitals are tested at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Panjagutta.

Mujtaba Hasan Askari, trustee of the NGO Helping Hands Foundation, recalled a case where a 10-member family in Hyderabad chose not to go to a government hospital after developing symptoms, fearing that they might contract the disease there.

“Another person chose to undergo only symptomatic tests rather than give samples at government hospitals. The issue could get resolved if testing is ramped up such as doorstep collection of samples or drive-through tests and even allowing private laboratories to conduct testing,” Mr Askari said.

Other districts

In other districts, if a patient with symptoms visits a Primary Health Centre (PHC) or any other health facility, they are taken to district hospitals and samples are collected for testing. “If they are symptomatic, they are quarantined at the district hospital till their results are received,” said B. Venkateshwar Rao, Medak’s District Medical and Health Officer.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 8:26:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/lack-of-clarity-on-testing-keeps-covid-suspects-on-the-edge/article31828765.ece

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