An expert committee constituted by the Telangana government has raised concerns about the handling of COVID-19 data and samples by several private COVID-19 testing laboratories in the state. Based on the committeeâ€™s report, the Director of Public Health in the state blamed the private laboratories for inflating the total number of positive cases in the state.
In a statement to the press on Friday, Dr G Srinivasa Rao, the Director of Public Health claimed that several private laboratories with ICMR approval have violated norms since they were allowed to carry out COVID-19 tests, on June 15. The government claims that the violations range from carrying out RT-PCR methods incorrectly which may have resulted in some negative samples testing positive, poor quality control and not using PPE kits while handing samples.
There are a total of 17 private laboratories that were given approval by ICMR to conduct COVID-19 tests in April. The expert committee inquiring into the functioning of these labs comprised four teams of senior microbiologists and officials from the State Health Department that visited 16 of these private labs. The committee found several of these labs employing staff who are not trained to carry out RT-PCR testing, those working at some of the private labs were also found not using adequate PPE kits while handling the samples.
The need for an expert committee to look into the private labs arose as a steep disparity emerged between data uploaded on the state and ICRM portals by the private labs. The director cited an instance where the ICMR portal recorded 9,577 cases while the state portal recorded 6,733 cases and the private labs recorded 12,700 cases.
Srinivas informed that at one of the labs at a major hospital, the committee found that the actual number of tests conducted was 3940, however, the lab had only uploaded 1568 tests showing 475 as positive. The state government, in its statement to media, reasons that the positive cases being reported from the state would be lower if all tests results were uploaded promptly into the state and ICRM portals. The committee also hinted that there were chances of several false-positive cases being reported by the private labs due to poor quality in testing.
The state says Gandhi Hospital, the nodal government hospital for all COVID-19 treatment in the state, will undertake quality control tests at the private labs, as per an earlier ICRM instruction. The state now intends to verify the tests conducted in the last ten days at these private labs to check if there was an amplification of COVID-19 cases and threatened strict action against erring private laboratories.