The Central Medical Stores Depot (CMSD) fears the stock of RT-PCR kit used to detect Covid-19 will soon run out. The institution has sent a letter to the Health Services Division on 20 April stating that the coronavirus testing kit will be out stock in 15 to 20 days. It also said that it would take one or one and a half months to procure new kits even through emergency purchase.
On the contrary, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has said there was no shortage of test kits in the country and that was why more tests have been conducted based on the stock.
Public health experts pointed that such contradictory statements of the two responsible government organisations show lack of coordination between the two bodies.
They said, it is necessary to provide people with accurate information at the moment.
Notably, there was shortage of testing kits last year that resulted in lower number of tests.
According to the CMSD’s letter obtained from the ministry of health, the number of kits in stock is 275,802. It said that it takes three to three and a half months to procure the kits following government regulations. And in case of emergency, it takes one to one and a half months to complete all processes and procure the kits through direct purchase. Strict restrictions are being imposed on communication and travel with the source country due to the corona situation.
Meanwhile, the cabinet committee on economic affairs on Wednesday gave its approval on principal to CMSD to procure RT-PCR test kits and various consumables for use in PCR labs through direct purchase.
DGHS officials said, the demand of kits rose as the number of tests has increased amid the second wave of coronavirus. Around 25,000 to 30,000 samples are being tested daily. Earlier on 8 April, CMSD in a letter informed the health service division that the stock of kits was around 330,000 which might meet the demand of 15 to 20 days
The CMSD’s letter asked DGHS to send the demand for kits and other items. It further states that it is the responsibility of the DGHS and the health service division to make purchase plan in advance as part of the necessary preparations to fight coronavirus. But CMSD has so far not received any purchase plan from any of the two organisations to counter the second wave of Covid-19. No emergency procurement plan was found even in the exacerbating state of the pandemic.
Sources said the CMSD was informed of the demand for items including RT-PCR kit for the next six months from the DGHS. The demand for kits in six months is said to be 3.6 million among which 3.4 million will have to be purchased as there is a stock of 200,000. CMSD wants to make a direct purchase of 50 per cent, 1.7 million, of the demanded kits. The estimated price will be Tk 1.67 billion as per piece kit will cost Tk 980.
CMSD director general declined to make any comment regarding the testing kits when contacted.
Asked if there was any crisis in the kit supply, director general of DGHS Abul Basar Mohammad Khurshid Alam told Prothom Alo on Wednesday that there was no crisis. He suggested talking to additional director general (Administration) of the DGHS, Nasima Sultana.
Nasima Sultana also claimed that there would be no shortage of kits. They will receive kits in a week.
DGHS officials said that they had a stock of 246,000 kits till Wednesday. This Prothom Alo correspondent after contacted with several hospitals found that there was no shortage of kits at the moment.
A district civil surgeon from Chittagong division, wishing not to be named, said Wednesday night, the kits in stock can be used for 18-20 days.
He also said, he would send a new requisition letter next week and the new supplies would be available within a week.
Meanwhile, associate professor of Microbiology, Dinajpur Medical College, Jogendra Nath Sarker told Prothom Alo that there are 4,262 corona RT-PCR kits in stock at Dinajpur Medical College Hospital. With this it is possible to run the test for one more month, he added.
Lack of Coordination
Such lack of coordination among government agencies had been seen before during the pandemic. At the beginning of the second wave of corona, various hospitals were short of equipment. However, various life-saving equipment and items worth Tk 1.02 billion were lying at the airport for 10 months. Although the items were purchased to meet urgent needs, it was learned that the equipment was not released simply due to lack of initiative. Complications were resolved in just seven days after the news was published in Prothom Alo on 13 April and following the instructions of the secretary of the DGHS. The process to release the goods lying at the airport began.
Abu Jamil Faisal, a public health expert, told Prothom Alo that the lack of coordination in dealing with the pandemic was a major shortcoming.
“DGHS may have different information about the kit, which was not reported to the CMSD. It is important to share information between the two government agencies. Otherwise, it may create confusion among people.”
*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat