Mpilo hospital halts Covid-19 testing
THE National TB Reference Laboratory, in conjunction with the National University of Science and Technology(Nust)’s Applied Genetics and Testing Centre (AGTC) have stopped testing for Covid-19 due to lack of consumables.
This was revealed by the AGTC’s director Zephania Dhlamini yesterday when Higher and Tertiary Education deputy minister Raymond Machingura toured the university’s anti Covid-19 projects.
Dhlamini said since the AGTC moved its testing equipment to Mpilo to begin testing for Covid-19, the Health ministry did not capacitate them with resources, prompting Nust to use its own.
He said to date, they have conducted more than 3 000 Covid-19 tests at Mpilo using their own consumables which have since run out.
“We got to Mpilo and all we received were donated Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) kits and nothing else in terms of consumables.
“We are coming from the Innovation Hub at Nust and our role is to make money by DNA testing for the institution. Now we have moved our equipment and staff and we are no longer doing our core business which is generating revenue for the university through DNA testing.
“To make matters worse, we were not given consumables. So, we kept on lending them, cannibalising from our lab pipettes, microcentrifuge tubes, microtiter plates and we are not getting the support that we need from the Health ministry.
“We have sent numerous emails to different officials, including Finance minister Mthuli Ncube who was here recently and promised to look into it but nothing is coming through.
“If you go to Mpilo now, there is no testing happening because the supplies are not there. It is a sad development,” Dhlamini said.
He said the university can no longer continue subsidising government in Covid-19 testing.
“The institution is not getting anything, yet we are using our own resources … Someone has to pay. We cannot be doing charity work at this point in time,” Dhlamini added.
Due to lack of consumables, Dhlamini revealed that there is a backlog of over 700 samples which are waiting testing.
He also highlighted that they are currently testing those they deem “extremely urgent” such as patients admitted in hospitals and suspected to have the virus and those in detention centres.
Machingura queried how the centre voluntarily moved its equipment to Mpilo without discussing the monetary issues.
Dhlamini said they had initially offered the services to the City of Bulawayo, which heads the local Rapid Response Team, at a cost before approaching Mpilo to offer its lab.
“Before we knew it, we received a letter from permanent secretary in the Health ministry saying they heard we have the Covid-19 equipment and instructed us to move it to Mpilo and start testing there.’’
Machingura promised to take up the issue of lack of consumables with the Health minister and advised the university to formally write to the government to see how they can financially be rewarded for testing.