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Government and healthcare industry should coalesce to fight this pandemic together

Amidst these trying times, diagnostic labs across the country are continuously working towards ramping up their capacity, building trained manpower and amplifying accuracy & speed of tests as the number of cases are surging exponentially every single day

Kochi, May 20th As the country grapples with thefast-proliferatingsecond wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pressure on the healthcare system has been mammoth. Recently, India witnessed the highest single-day spike of COVID 19 cases, clocking a whopping four lakh mark. Amidst these trying times, diagnostic labs across the country are continuously working towards ramping up their capacity, building trained manpower and amplifying accuracy & speed of tests as the number of cases are surging exponentially every single day. The mounting pressure that the diagnostic labs are reeling under can be gauged from the fact that many private laboratories had to put on-holdnew test requests in some parts of the country. Even though such drastic steps cannot be accepted in these harrowing times, the challenges are glaring and real.

While thegovernment has been putting in concerted efforts and are continuously working towards ensuring affordable access to quality healthcare services at large, the price cap that exists on the RT-PCR testing is a major concern now. For instance, in Kerala,on RT-PCR tests the price has been capped at Rs 500 so as to encourage people to come forward and get their tests done. However, price capping also needs to take into account all the input cost.Earlier last year, when the test pricing was capped across various states,SRL Diagnostics echoed the concerns and challenges being faced by the industry.

Talking on same, Anand K., CEO, SRL Diagnostics, said, “We completely understand the gravity of the ground-level scenario and our role as an essential service provider, and have been working shoulder to shoulder with the government. Aligned with this commitment, we are conducting tests across the country at revised costing, as stipulated by the various state governments of India.However, we should also keep in mind, that there are associated costs like data entry, manpower, quality controland logistics, which have all gone higher than the initial estimates. The government should consider these factors while fixing the price.

DDRC SRL has 185 labs across Kerala, with two NABL accredited, ICMR approved RT PCR labs in Kochi and Trivandrum with a current capacity of 15,000 RT PCR tests per day. Additionally, the company plans to add another RT-PCR lab in Calicut in early June, to further enhance its testing capacity in the region.Given the situation underway, extensive testing is an absolute indispensability and is the very need of the hour, and so is required treatment of COVID patients.

Dr.Ajith Joy K, Director, DDRC SRL, highlighted, “It is critical to maintain a distributed and decentralized testing system across the state of Kerala to meet the TAT of 24 hours which is vital to contain the spread of the disease by identifying and isolating the infected persons early. Lack of skilled manpower, training,data entry requirements and creating a bench of technologists and phlebotomists to continue operations smoothly even when the infection spreads to the lab staff, are some of the challenges that affect the costing for tests.”

Therefore, the government and the industry should work in tandem and resolve such anomalies at the earliest. Humankind is faced with unprecedented circumstances and we must all stand in unison and work towards fighting this battle together.

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