Non-medical labs eager to help solve capacity problems with Covid-19 testing
Non-medical labs are eager to cover the capacity problems medical labs are experiencing with Covid-19 testing. They've been telling the government they're available to help since March and don't understand why they are not allowed to, Bernd Kroon of trade association Fenelab, to which over 90 non-medical labs are affiliated, said to newspaper Trouw.
This week Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health ordered the GGD health services to stop expanding Covid-19 testing, despite increasing demand, due to capacity problems at the labs that process the tests. Kroon told Trouw that he knows of at least six non-medical labs that are willing to help with this. Together they can process 140 thousand tests per week - the total number of tests the GGDs are currently doing per week, he said.
The capacity shortage these labs are currently facing is a "created bottleneck", Kroon said to the newspaper. "It wasn't necessary. Since March, we have been knocking on the door fo the Ministry of Health, RIVM and other relevant authorities, in vain" Many non-medical labs are already doing similar tests, Kroon said. They detect viruses in food and drinking water, for example. Lab technicians don't require any special medical skills, and many labs already have the equipment needed for the Covid-19 tests. All that needs to happen is that the labs need to be accredited, and a protocol must be created for the exchange of information, he said.
Anton Buiting, chairman of the association for medical microbiological laboratories VMML, agrees that non-medical labs can also do the Covid-19 tests. "But as medical microbiologists, we are also in good contact with the GGD and the institutions in our region. We can think along with them. We have a system that works well. Why would you change that?" Buiting said to Trouw. According to him, there is only a "relative capacity problem" caused by too many healthy people getting tested.
The other trade association for medical labs SAN told Trouw that the labs can handle the number of tests, but are struggling with a shortage of materials. There are too few reagents, needed for the test. Non-medical labs would also have that problem, director Leo Kliphuis said.
But according to Kroon, that is not the case. "We can make those reagents ourselves. Second-year molecular biology students used to do that on a late afternoon. We now have a system in place in which those substances are supplied by a limited number of companies, but we can get rid of that. We have to be more creative, think in terms of solutions."