‘Self-serve’ report pickup and time-travelling tests | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 29, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:19 AM, June 29, 2020

‘Self-serve’ report pickup and time-travelling tests

Mistakes, mismanagement of Covid-19 testing at port city’s BITID raise eyebrows; authorities say they are short-staffed

Allegations of mistakes and mismanagement in Covid-19 test results have been growing at the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (BITID) in Chattogram city, as the centre continues to work through the health crisis with limited resources.

Russel Chowdhury (not his real name) from Sitakunda upazila said his report had June 28 as the date of sample collection, while he had collected the report itself on June 27 (Saturday). The report also said the intended date for its collection was June 29.

"I gave my sample in late May; since then, I have come here at least five times to collect my report, but to no avail," he added.

"I came to know through the BITID hotline in mid-June that I tested positive for Covid-19."

"Now I have the report, but with the anomalies in it, I am having trouble trusting its accuracy ," he said, adding that a stack of reports were left in a basket at the corridor of BITID when he went to pick it up, and no responsible staff was present to take care of those.

This correspondent visited the spot yesterday, and found truth in the claim. Test reports -- that are of paramount importance to patients -- were found left in a basket on a table at the corridor of BITID.

Kumkum Biswas from Sitakunda also expressed her concerns over the matter. "Patients and their attendants are rummaging through for their reports in the basket. Some get it, some do not. Any report can go missing in this ruckus," she said, "Moreover, as the reports are left open, privacy of patients is violated."

Contacted, Prof Dr Shakil Ahmed, in-charge of BITID laboratory, said the date of delivery of Russell's report would actually be on May 29. "It was a printing mistake. We have corrected it after the patient informed us," he said.

Asked why the report was not delivered earlier, Prof Shakil said the report was ready much earlier but the patient "did not come to collect it".

Asked why the reports have been left in the corridor without any custodian, Prof Shakil said a staff member has been entrusted to take care of those. "He has to work for over 12 hours a day. Maybe he went to the washroom or some urgent work came up," said Prof Shakil.

"There is a shortage of manpower so it hasn't been possible to keep a substitute staffer," he said.

Citizens and civil society members also expressed their concern over the mismanagement in delivering reports and the subsequent trouble caused by it.

Contacted, SM Nazer Hossain, central vice president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said BITID officials have "failed to show responsibility and professionalism in their work."

"We heard there is a shortage of manpower in BITID since March, but why has that problem not been solved in three months?" he questioned. "This is just an excuse for irresponsibility now."

"The main issue is of sincerity and cordiality," he claimed. "There is only one PCR machine in Cox's Bazar, but with this, the district tests over 600 samples on average a day. On the other hand, there are six PCR machines in Chattogram, but we can hardly test 500-600 samples each day."

BITID Director Prof Dr MA Hasan, however, did not agree that his staff and officials lack sincerity.

"We are all here to serve the patients. We are trying our best to deliver reports in the shortest possible time with our limited resources. Our staff and officials work at the lab for 12-16 hours a day. They also have to type out reports. There is no additional staff for that," he said, "Several hundred samples pile up for testing and so it takes time to test and deliver the reports."

About the reports left at the corridor, he said he would look into it.

Contacted, Chattogram Civil Surgeon Dr Sheikh Fazle Rabbi said no one has informed him about the issues. "I am looking into the matter," he said.

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