Anxiety grips Ingutsheni Hospital staffers as Covid-19 PCR results delay

Officials at Ingutsheni Hospital in Bulawayo say the turnaround time for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test results, which are crucial in confirming one’s Covid-19 status, take longer to be delivered, a situation which has caused anxiety among staffers amid reports that some nurses tested positive for the virus.

There were reports that three staff members tested positive for Covid-19 at the mental institution but hospital officials refused to allow mass testing to be done on staff members and patients.

“Three staff members in different wards tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week. However, the Principal Nursing Officer (PNO), Agnes Kabwemba, is refusing to allow mass testing for staff members and patients. Most recently she told some nurses that they are the ones bringing Covid-19 from ZUPCO. The students, patients, nurses, Doctors,  hospital hands, nurse aides are at risk and some are even unaware because the PNO warned those who tested positive from disclosing their results,” sources said.

Ingutsheni Hospital Clinical Director, Dr Wellington Ranga, said the hospital was waiting on PCR results and dismissed these allegations as untrue.

“I wonder where that is coming from, the PNO is not even in charge of testing. People are free to go test for Covid-19 anytime, there is no limitation when it comes to such an important issue. The PNO is not involved and I don’t see the logic in her denying others the right to be tested,” he said.

The clinical director revealed that rather the challenge faced by Ingutsheni is PCR results for staff members have not come due to backlog (at the National TB Reference Laboratory at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo).

“We conducted Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) and the real issue is we are waiting for PCR results as there is a backlog. We do ask authorities for PCR tests but they are overwhelmed, to do that for us as even nationally the backlog is a challenge,” he said in an interview with CITE.

Dr Ranga highlighted that testing and the fight against Covid-19 at Ingutsheni Hospital was run by the institution’s principal tutor.

“He is the one running that charge,” said the clinical director, noting that the institution had done about 57 RDT tests and were still waiting for PCR confirmatory tests.

“We don’t have PCR results although we did record one positive result, which came about as a contact of another case,” Dr Ranga said.

Health experts globally have said delays in receiving Covid-19 results negatively impacts on the ability to effectively contact trace and isolate cases or contacts thus making it difficult to adequately control the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, Dr Ranga said tackling Covid-19 was a difficult issue, as there was no tangible solution to the disease, save for prevention.

“We can talk about testing but the focus should be on prevention measures, as a hospital we can’t do anything honestly but follow protocols. We say ‘we have to test’ but PCR test results come a week after testing. Obviously, we can’t close the hospital because that will not be practical and people will skin us alive.

“No one has a solution, even internationally but the best that can be done is to prevent Covid-19 and follow the basic infection control measures. People can ask what the health minister is doing about Covid-19 but that is not practical except for putting officials on the spotlight,” the clinical director said.

With community transmission now a major concern in the spread of Covid-19, Dr Ranga  stressed on prevention.

“Everyone must focus on prevention and the same teaching applies to our workers, you can’t ask workers who stay in the communities not to come to the hospital because they have to tend to the patients here,” said the clinical director.  

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