The Dehradun district administration has formed a committee to investigate a 10% difference in positivity rate in the city in Covid-19 tests done through private and government laboratories, the district magistrate said.
The positivity rate reported from private labs is 36% while it is 26% for government labs.
As per the records of the state health bulletin, the positivity rate has a difference of 10% in Dehradun for tests done from September 13-19 by private and government labs.
A total of 10,686 tests were done in the district with 3,315 cases reported for the said week. The positivity rate reported from private labs is 36% whereas for government labs it is 26%. This as, almost equal test took place in both the laboratories but 60% of the Covid-19 cases reported are from private labs and 40% are from government labs.
Along with the difference in positivity rate, the Dehradun district administration has also received complaints that they tested positive in one private lab, but tested negative in the second test done from either a government or private lab.
Ashish Kumar Srivastava, district magistrate of Dehradun said that a committee has been formed to investigate the matter.
“We have formed a committee for all private labs, which has officials from the district administration and two experts, an epidemiologist and microbiologist, to investigate the difference. The committee will study everything and submit its report within one week. It is not just the difference of the positivity rate, but we will be looking into why different test results are being reported from different labs,” said the district magistrate.
The district magistrate added that the committee will take details of why there is a difference in positivity rate, the procedure of collecting samples by private labs, precautions taken during collection of samples, testing, how addresses and contact numbers are noted, how much time is taken to give reports to patients.
Srivastava further said that the district administration has temporarily stopped testing at only one private lab in Dehradun as “they had taken down wrong addresses and contact details of the patients making it difficult for us to trace the patients. A show cause notice has been sent to them and till they give us a reply, testing has been suspended.”
Dehradun district has around 15 private labs for testing Covid-19 samples, the district magistrate said.
On Saturday, during a review meeting with all district magistrates, the chief secretary instructed officials that action should be taken against private laboratories if false positive reports are being given.
Pankaj Pandey, secretary in-charge for medical health and family welfare department said, “We have learnt from the media and personally also about the difference in positivity rate. All the districts have been asked to check the reason behind the difference in the positivity rate at the earliest as it is becoming a serious issue now. If at all wrong reports are being given, then it can spread panic amongst people and hamper our management process also.”
Anoop Nautiyal, founder of Dehradun-based think tank Social Development for Communities that has been analysing the Covid-19 data in the hill state said, “To understand the difference in the positivity rate between private and government labs we should start getting detailed numbers of RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen tests separately for both government as well as private labs. Only then will we be able to compare apple to apple.”
He further said, “A third party or external audit of each and every lab that is doing Covid tests in Uttarakhand also should be done. This includes both private and government labs as well.”
Private lab operators, however, say that the positivity rate could be high given that they collect samples from high suspect patients from private hospitals who are already admitted in isolation.
Dr. Alok Ahuja, lab director of Dr. Ahujas Pathology and Imaging Centre, one of biggest private labs in Dehradun which collects samples from 14 private hospitals said that as per their records of all samples collected from September 1-14, the positivity rate from private hospitals has been 34.2% and for walk-in samples it stands at 20.9%.
“Our incidence is a little higher as we collect samples from major private hospitals in Dehradun, which include symptomatic patients who are already admitted in isolation. Around one-third of the total samples (200-250 daily) are from these hospitals. From these hospitals, we get a positivity rate of 70-80%, but for the general population (walk-in sampling) we get 18-20%,” Dr Ahuja said.
He added, “The district magistrate has spoken to me and asked me to review my process. A team from the state health department which included a microbiologist also visited my lab last week and checked all the process. They found everything satisfactory and I welcome further checking also as panic should not be spread amongst common people.”