COVID-19 test witnessing slow progress in Cross River

COVID-19 test witnessing slow progress in Cross River


BY: Nsa Gill

Testing for Coronavirus in Cross River State has remained as a slow pace despite increase on the center for sample collection across the state. The state has two centers for testing but state government has designated 18 centers across the state for collection of samples.

Commissioner for Health and the Chairman of the State COVID-19 Response team, Dr. Betta Edu agreed that the testing is slow but noted a couple of efforts the state government has put in place to increase the record of testing across the 18 local government areas in the state.

According to her, one of such effort was the establishment of sample collection centers across the state. “Another is the community testing by getting aid workers to clusters such as market areas and border towns. We do enlightenment is such places and call up for voluntary testing.”

So far across the state thousands of samples have been collected but as at 8th of September 2020, a total number of about 2300 had been tested. The two testing centers in Cross River State-approved by the National Center for Disease Control for the testing of samples on the Coronavirus pandemic are Lawrence Henshaw Memorial Hospital in Calabar, controlled by the state Government and the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital UCTH micro-biological lab.

According to Dr. Betta Edu, in the past 2 months, about 1520 samples have been collected across the state at the instance of the state government.

She explained that with the low rate in the record of people voluntarily walking in to do testing; what the state was now doing is to encourage community testing by stopping at the market areas and border communities to create more public awareness and do the sample collection.

At the second testing lab located at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital UCTH, the Chief Medical Director, Prof, Ikpeme A; Ikpeme directed the head of the lab, Dr. Ubing Udoh to speak to us. Dr. Udoh disclosed that UCTH was approved as a case management institution and not actually as a mess testing facility.

As such, he added, the center in the last two months has done an average of 600 (six hundred) tests on samples.

“The original idea behind our laboratory was to really focus on the patients who are ill and diagnose for COVID-19. In diagnosing, the negative result is also as important to us as the Positive; for instance, if a patient has to cover may be a surgical operation, or has to go for something like endoscopy or ENT surgery, the status of the patient has to be known in terms of COVID-19. The patient’s mouth and throat are the areas they are likely going to deal with. Also if a patient is to be admitted in an open ward with other patients, the status has to be known. Besides that, patients sometimes come in for us to just conduct a test. That is like voluntary testing.”

Adding, “as far as NCDC was concern, the projection was for Lawrence Henshaw Hospital to focus more on mass testing. Being that it is a walk-in center. But we had to allow people to voluntarily walk in and test in our lab as well the pressure was much.”

“In two months, we have done over 600 tests. Recently, we collect a new batch of test kits. We will continue testing as much as we can and that statistic will keep increasing. We have a small machine that runs a maximum of four samples in one hour. Sometimes we do 24 in a day and some days we do up to 32 depending on who early we start.”

In terms of challenges the UCTH center may be having, Dr. Udoh said power is a major factor but the hospital management has provided alternative sources with a generator and even an inverter dedicated to the machine itself and for the bio-hazard chamber.

“Another issue is that our machine is small. It is a low through-put machine. Which means it was not originally designed to take a lot of samples at a time. Which is the reason we were not meant to do mass testing. But with the situation we found ourselves which sometimes we may have about fifty patients in a day, we had to open up for more testing and sample collection. If we had an additional bigger machine, that will ease some challenges. We also need a regular supply of the reagents and PPEs”.

As at 8th of September, Cross River State had 83 recorded cases confirmed by the National Center for Disease Control.

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