Winde writes to Ramaphosa over backlog of NHLS Covid-19 test results

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Cape Town – Western Cape Premier Alan Winde wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday regarding the backlogs currently being experienced in the National Health Laboratory Services which are resulting in the delay of test results.

The National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) is the national government entity which is mandated to complete all government testing – even from provincial governments. The Western Cape Minister of Health, Nomafrench Mbombo has also addressed a letter to national Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

“Over the past two weeks, the Western Cape has more than doubled the total number of tests conducted as part of a targeted testing strategy aimed at identifying pockets of infection. We understand that as the Western Cape and other provinces have increased their focus on testing, this has placed strain on the NHLS and their resources,” Winde said.

Winde said that among the problems being experienced is a shortage of reagents and test kits which need to be imported from overseas.

“Policy decisions, such as the decision by the Department of Labour that a person must test negative before being allowed to return to work and other government departments requesting testing for their staff members, place additional strain on the system and further compound the problem.

“We have requested that the President urgently intervene to support the NHLS and obtain the reagents and test kits required, and to address issues in the policy space,” the premier said.

As a short term solution, the Western Cape Government has approached the private sector to access any additional available capacity. Winde said that these labs are however also under severe pressure and this does not offer any realistic short term relief.

“Given the backlogs and delays, targeted testing is more important than ever, because we need to use every test as effectively as possible. The long delays result in waits of up to seven days for test results-putting extreme stress and pressure on those awaiting their test results. In the acute hospital setting and for health care workers, we cannot afford to wait that long for test results,” Winde said.

“The delays in test results also have a knock-on effect, delaying the contact tracing process and increasing the risk of further spread of the virus. We appeal to those who are awaiting test results to remain calm, and to ensure that they quarantine themselves to prevent further spread of the virus – this is the same protocol we should all follow if we are a close contact of a Covid-19 positive confirmed person, or if we feel even a little bit ill.”

President Ramaphosa and Minister Mkhize will be visiting the Western Cape next week and Winde said that they are looking forward to welcoming them to the province, “where we will be sharing the steps we have taken to prepare for the peak of the pandemic”.

“We also look forward to the opportunity to discuss the NHLS matter with them in person, to ensure that the system is bolstered to properly cater to all the provincial testing needs.”

Cape Argus

By Staff Reporter


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