Guy welcomes plans for expanded COVID-19 testing

OPPOSITION spokesman on health, Dr Morais Guy has agreed with the Ministry of Health’s expanded testing approach for COVID-19 by sampling all new hospital admissions.

At the same time, he has cautioned against the move becoming a triage process, and noted that there could be fewer hospital admissions due to the recommendation for individuals to stay home.

He raised the points Thursday during a virtual meeting of Parliament’s special select committee of on public health.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, who chairs the committee, announced on Wednesday that expanded testing will include all hospitals.

“We have to ensure that this system doesn’t lend itself to a triage where you make a determination in terms of your capacity to test, but I do understand the need. I see, too, in light of the recommendations by the ministry that patients stay at home, there seemingly is going to be less hospital admissions that are going to be taking place,” Dr Guy said.

He suggested that some analysis could be also be done to examine whether, over the past two months, there has already been a decline in the approximately 15,000 hospital admissions that are seen per month.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie told the committee the health ministry wants to return hospitals to a state of normality for all patients, even while it addresses the COVID-19 crisis.

“What we want to do is return our hospital to a sense of normalcy, not just in terms of the care of patients who have COVID[-19], but patients who have chronic disease[s], who have surgeries to do, persons who present to the outpatient department and the emergency department. We want to ensure that the belief that someone could be COVID[-19]-positive does not detract from getting what needs to be done for that person. We would want everyone who comes into the hospital to be tested so that persons could have a certain level of comfort in terms of any type of management that is required for these patients,” she explained.

Dr Bisasor McKenzie said health authorities want to be able to rule out COVID-19 with certainty when patients die in hospital.

Member of Parliament for St Andrew Southern Mark Golding noted, however, that there is a distinction between testing persons who have died, to be sure of the cause of death, compared with testing all persons who are admitted to hospital.

“They are two different issues completely. I can certainly understand the testing of persons who have died, especially if there is any reason to suspect COVID[-19], to make sure COVID[-19] numbers are more accurate, but persons entering hospital – that’s a different matter,” he remarked.

Dr Tufton told the committee that in 2019 there were between 170,000 and 180,000 admissions to hospital. Golding pointed out that those numbers meant that testing every hospital admission would mean a major resource allocation.

“If it is that you have adequate capability for the tracking and tracing and you’re doing that efficiently, and you decide to do some more random-type testing and you’re using hospital efficiencies to do that, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.

The CMO, meanwhile, emphasised that testing protocol continues to evolve in the face of COVID-19, and that admissions testing will provide an opportunity to expand random sampling. At the same time, the health minister noted that more testing will over time actually lead to a decline in testing, depending on the clinical presentation of cases.

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