BMC stops labs from sharing ‘positive’ reports with patients

Move aimed at preventing panic; a ‘negative’ report can be shared directly

June 16, 2020 11:45 pm | Updated 11:45 pm IST - Mumbai

Plan change: Till now, the BMC’s policy requested laboratories not to notify patients of test resuts without informing the municipal corporation. File

Plan change: Till now, the BMC’s policy requested laboratories not to notify patients of test resuts without informing the municipal corporation. File

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has changed its testing protocols yet again, prohibiting laboratories from sharing COVID-19-positive reports directly with patients. Reports will now have to be shared with the corporation, which in turn will notify patients. However, a COVID-19 negative report can be shared with the patient.

“The objective is to prevent panic, as people immediately start looking for a hospital bed, even if they may not need one. In this case, our staff will notify the person and at the same time, guide them as to whether they need to be admitted to a facility or be home quarantined,” said a civic official.

The BMC has come under fire for changing its testing protocol often. On assuming charge, Municipal Commissioner I.S. Chahal had said the BMC will come up with a comprehensive testing policy based on Indian Council for Medical Research guidelines, and formed a new policy on May 12.

The policy requested laboratories not to notify patients without informing the BMC, “as patients are to be made aware of precautions, isolation and quarantine requirements.”

On June 13, the BMC amended this policy, prohibiting laboratories from sending a positive report directly to patients. The guidelines apply to home testing too. In case of samples sent by hospitals, laboratories will have to share patients’ positive reports with the BMC, while negative reports can be shared with the hospital.

A senior doctor from a city-based hospital, which has its own laboratory, said in the past they would communicate the reports to patients and the BMC simultaneously. “But with the new notification, we will now be sending only the positive reports to the BMC,” he said. This applies mainly to patients who walk into the hospital just for testing, he said.

Another doctor said while the BMC’s aim is to reduce panic, as patients start looking for hospital beds as soon as they get a positive report, any delay in knowing the COVID-19 status also causes anxiety. “It is only fair on patients if the BMC communicates the status immediately and guides them thoroughly at every step,” said the doctor.

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