HYDERABAD: Getting tested for Covid-19 in Telangana has become a challenge for many, with the State’s Primary Health Centres (PHC) facing an acute shortage of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits.
PHCs are now forced to issue tokens to citizens for tests at a later date — at least 1-3 days after a person approaches any given PHC. In some cases, these healthcare centres are forced to test only those people with symptoms.
Express spoke to several State Public Health Officers (SPHOs), who are in charge of the PHCs where testing for Covid-19 is being conducted. While shortage of RAT kits was a common issue raised by them, a few of them flagged the poor quality of these test kits. Reduction in manpower at PHCs, in view of rising number of Covid-19 cases, has also impacted the pace of testing in the State.
Long queues at PHCs
People lining up for testing as early as 6 am, and some of them breaking into heated arguments have become a common sight at PHCs in Greater Hyderabad limits. “We are helpless, because we can only test around 100 samples per day. When we run out of test kits, we reach out to nearby PHCs to check if they have any kits left.
People want us to extend test timings till evening, but we have been directed by higher authorities to upload all the test reports by 3 pm every day,” said an SPHO. Another official said, “There are some kits in almost every consignment which lack either of the elements — a strip or a swab. Sometimes, the buffer is not enough. Such kits just go to waste.”
Eatala to write to Centre for more test kits
It may be mentioned here that the Telangana Health Minister Eatala Rajender, on Saturday, released a statement that he would soon be writing to the Union Health Minister, seeking more test kits for the State.
However, the SPHOs pointed out that while getting more kits would definitely prove helpful, increasing the manpower was also necessary. A Primary Health Centre (PHC) which covers a population of around 50,000 is expected to have one doctor, five ANMs, one staff nurse, two lab technicians, one data entry operator and one supervisor. In many PHCs, some of these positions are vacant.