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State owns up to virus testing errors

Reproductive Health - By Anyango Otieno and Graham Kajilwa

The Government has admitted that there were inconsistencies in Covid-19 tests, even as the National Assembly sought to dig deeper into the possibility of some patients being issued with wrong diagnosis.

Kiambu Central MP Jude Njomo told the National Assembly Health Committee that his late mother got a wrong Covid-19 diagnosis and had to be buried hurriedly at 8pm.

Heath Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman said several factors, including how a sample is collected, stored or transported, might have an effect on the results.

If this is not done keenly, then the nucleic acid in the virus may disappear and such a test would come back negative, he said.

“It is possible that something might have gone wrong along the line,” said Dr Aman.

He said that both the virus and the reagents must be transported in ice and their storage must be a cold chain to assure the integrity of the test results.

“A properly stored virus should be able to stay for two to three weeks and still be able to get the right test results,” said Aman.

Aman said a good test result is one which is reproducible in another laboratory of the same standard during quality assessment. He said several times, the ministry would send samples to different labs just to determine the integrity of the tests.

“We are reevaluating this. If we find negligence, we will take necessary measures,” said Aman.

Speaking during the Committee on Health sitting on Tuesday, Mr Njomo said his late mother had tested negative at the Aga Khan University Hospital after falling ill and taking the requisite test.

On June 8, she fell ill again and her family rushed her to the Mater Hospital where she succumbed outside the hospital.

Her body was preserved at the facility as the family retreated to make funeral plans.

The family received news that the old lady had tested positive for Covid-19 and they needed to plan for a funeral immediately.

Njomo said they received a call at 3pm and his mother was buried at 8pm the same day.

“For the 82 years she had lived, we felt that we did not give her the dignity she deserved,” the MP said.

Dissatisfied with the results, the family decided to have another test conducted. The test conducted at the Lancet lab returned positive. However, a test conducted at the Nairobi Hospital returned negative.

Njomo then contacted the Director General, Ministry of Health, Dr Patrick Amoth, with the results. Other tests carried out at the National Influenza Centre (NIC) returned negative results.

“Dr Amoth showed me the message saying the results turned out negative,” said Njomo.

Prof Dominic Mwenje, Mater Hospital CEO, told the committee that the hospital had not reached out to the Lancet Lab after the contentious results, saying the lab is credible.

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