Kumudesh accuses Health Ministry mandarins of more shenanigans and demands lifting of restrictions on rapid antigen tests

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Ministry of Health must remove restrictions on private labs to conduct rapid antigen tests, College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island yesterday.

Kumudesh said that in June 2021, the Health Ministry had issued a circular banning private labs from conducting the rapid antigen tests. Later, the Ministry allowed around eight private labs to conduct those tests.

“The Ministry also insisted on the signatures of microbiologists on reports. Now, these labs, on average, have to pay Rs. 250 per report to a microbiologist. There really is no need for a microbiologist to oversee the process and given that we only have a few of them; they are actually not supervising the tests. This requirement was put in place for microbiologists to make money,” he said.

The CMLS President added that the circular banning the rapid antigen tests were issued at a time when the country was going through a Level 3 pandemic, but now the pandemic was at level 5 severity.

“It is obvious that these guidelines do not suit the ground realities of today. A lot of medical experts have also pointed this out and they too have called for the lifting of the ban. The Health Ministry bigwigs are not making the necessary changes because these regulations are in place to make a selected group of people rich. Most of the guidelines and regulations issued by the Ministry are not about controlling the pandemic,” he said.

Kumudesh urged the government to expand the rapid PCR facility to all state-run hospitals and to move towards providing home testing facilities. The best way to beat the pandemic was to test as many people as possible and isolate the infected, he said.

“This is what China does. We can easily expand our testing capacity three times without investing in new machinery. We have given a detailed report on how this could be done to the Ministry, but nothing has been done,” he said.


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