Wednesday 2 December, 2020

New COVID-19 reporting protocols expected to ease backlog

Testing and reporting protocols are expected to be revamped in the coming week as Trinidad and Tobago continues to deal with a rapidly increasing number of cases of COVID-19.

Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, acknowledged that there has been a delay in the reporting of COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks. The Ministry’s twice-daily regular updates have been indicating COVID-19 positives from samples submitted over a period of a few days, rather than samples taken within a 24-48 hour period.

Minister Deyalsingh assured that this change in reporting of confirmed cases is not due to a delay in testing on the part of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), but rather a delay by the Trinidad Public Health Lab (TPHL) in reporting the results from CARPHA to the relevant Ministry of Health authorities for dissemination to the public.

He said: “I held a series of meetings with CARPHA, Ministry of Health, Dr Trotmann, Dr Hinds, University of the West Indies. What happened was that with the increased number of testing, CARPHA was in fact turning around their test in the normal time. So the problem wasn't at the CARPHA end.”

CARPHA’s turnaround time for test results is 24-48 hours after they receive samples sent to them by the Ministry of Health.

In order to address the lag in reporting by the TPHL, Minister Deyalsingh said a lab manager from Insect Vector Control Division has been reassigned to the TPHL to map the reporting process.

He also advised that Dr Naresh Nandram, Principal Medical Officer – Epidemiology, along with two administrative assistants, is now working directly with the TPHL to help speed up reporting.

Deyalsingh said he expects to see a ‘significant impact’ on reporting by the middle of next week and that the backlog of reports should be cleared by next Friday.

The Minister also indicated that there would be changes to the way samples are prioritised for testing and reporting.

He said: “I have asked for a new triage method of how we test…where those swabs go, so it's going to be based on acuity….those who who could wait a day or two, those who need results now. So, for example, you have somebody in the Accident & Emergency waiting for an operation - we will now use Genexpert machines which are low volume but much faster as opposed to regular PCR which is high volume but slower.”

The Minister said these new protocols for testing and reporting should significantly ease the backlog of results.

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