Dis-Chem closes all Covid-19 testing facilities after patient numbers overwhelms labs

 ·10 Jul 2020

Dis-Chem says that based on the backlog in obtaining test results, it has decided to close its testing facilities for the foreseeable future.

The pharmacy group has said that the unanticipated increase in infections across the country, but in Gauteng in particular, has put severe strain on the capacity of testing labs, which in turn, has impacted the turnaround time for Dis-Chem’s test results.

Gauteng alone has seen a dramatic rise in the number of Covid-19 infections and in just two weeks‚ the number of infections has increased a staggering 283%, the pharmacy group said.

On Thursday (9 July), health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced 238,339 total cases of coronavirus in South Africa, following a record 24-hour surge of 13,674 new cases.

The minister announced 129 new Covid-19 related deaths, taking the total to 3,720 casualties following a high of 192 deaths on Tuesday, while the minister pointed to 113,061 recoveries to date.

A total of two million tests have been conducted, with 56,170 tests conducted over the past 24 hours, Dr Mkhize said.

Gauteng meanwhile, has become the country’s epicentre, accounting for more than a third of total infections, and rising daily.

“We are constantly following up with the various laboratories, but they are being forced to prioritise urgent hospital tests,” said Lizeth Kruger, Dis-Chem’s national clinic manager.

“The number of labs that can do the tests is limited and we are spreading our load across as many as possible. Another factor affecting the speed of testing and obtaining results is the reduced number of flights around the country, so transporting tests to the labs from outlying cities and other remote stations is delayed.”

Kruger said the system was working well until a week ago but the sudden surge in patient numbers has overwhelmed all facilities.

“The reality of the situation is one that the healthcare sector has never faced an issue of this nature, and the fast-growing infection numbers are having a broad impact. This is just one example of an over-burdened system.”

She said all results are SMSed directly to customers as soon as Dis-Chem receives them.

“We don’t want to let our customers down and as we are only facilitators; we have no control over the labs. We reiterate our intention to support government by providing additional testing capacity, but this is out of our hands.”

“We apologise for the delays and assure our customers and public that we are doing everything in our power to get results to them as quickly as we can. We will review the situation on a regular basis and will consider reopening the testing facilities once we are assured that the various labs can cope with demand.

“The pandemic and the rising numbers are leading to panic, and we urge consumers only to get tested if they develop symptoms,” Kruger said.

Read: Dis-Chem fined for hiking mask prices during coronavirus pandemic

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