COVID-19 tests at private hospitals not reliable: GMOA

The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) yesterday stressed that tests carried out to diagnose COVID-19 by private hospitals are not reliable.

Responding to a question on the availability of such tests at private facilities in Colombo, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge said that the association was aware of this development.

“We cannot guarantee the reliability of coronavirus tests conducted by private hospitals or labs. We have been made aware that a certain amount of tests are being carried out at various private hospitals. The tests are conducted at unlimited rates and various price points. These hospitals are said to be charging between Rs. 18,000 and 20,000 from a patient for this screening,” Dr. Aluthge said.

He urged the government to look into this matter immediately. “Under these circumstances we cannot allow such institutions to exploit vulnerable patients or the public. The Ministry of Health has named 17 government hospitals across the island, where concerned patients can receive treatment. These hospitals have been prepared with facilities required for such situations,” he said.

According to the GMOA, the Medical Research Institute (MRI) in Colombo is equipped with all of the required services. “Earlier hospitals had to send all test samples to the MRI. However selected specialised hospitals are now being provided with these facilities as well. For instance, the Anuradhapura Hospital is capable of conducting a COVID-19 test,” he said.

Dr. Aluthge however noted that available resources are limited to provide these tests across the country. “Therefore we cannot use it as a screening test, where a patient who wishes to test for the possibility of having contracted the disease can come in for a test. Such screening tests for COVID-19 at this moment are futile. We use this test as a diagnostic test, under limited conditions,” he explained.

Meanwhile the Health Ministry has introduced a 24-hour hotline to obtain information on new Coronavirus. Accordingly, people can contact health officials via 0710 107 107 or 011 307 1073 to receive verified information on the virus. “As misinformation is rampant across social media, it is important to receive information from the correct channels, including information about where you can go for a coronavirus test, and to find out if you are eligible for such a test,” he said.