A significant number of Covid-19 samples are being rejected by the Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) on a daily basis due to possible contamination.
Laboratory technicians at NIP said they often receive improperly marked and poorly sealed samples from the regions. This not only has the potential to expose laboratory technicians to contaminated material, but also leads to a worrying backlog of test results.
A medical technician at the NIP, Julia Kafugula, said that although most of the rejected samples are sent back for re-testing, some healthcare workers refused to accept the comments for rectification.
“We will not know whether the ‘manufacturers’ adhered to the comments and did the re-testing. But most of them phone us as soon as they receive the comments, accusing us of not wanting to test their samples. With that one can assume that most of them do not redo the resting,” she said.
New Era was presented with an opportunity this week to visit NIP to witness first-hand the Covid-19 testing process. On Monday alone, 94 samples were rejected because they were received without names, while 12 others were leaking and not properly sealed.
A whole rack containing 94 samples was rejected because it was sent to the laboratory without names, making it difficult for technicians to allocate the results.
The NIP technicians say they can reject up to 200 samples in one day.
“As you can see all these samples are not properly labelled. The forms have all the details, including the reference number but the samples have no name. How are you going to identify the patients to allocate the results? It is a very bulky process that contributes to the backlog. Therefore all these samples will be rejected and the patients need to be re-swabbed,” said Kafugula.
All the rejected samples on Monday were from the Erongo region, which has seen hundreds of cases reported at Walvis Bay, the epicentre of the virus in the country. The Covid-19 testing backlog has frustrated many, especially in Erongo region, where hundreds are quarantined for over 14 days without knowing their status.
“We understand society’s blame because they do not know what is happening behind the testing process. We are not at fault when people do not receive their results on time. Of course, we have our blame that we can appreciate but most of the delays are caused by the officials that are not putting in all efforts in making sure that all the necessary details are provided before they send the results,” the technicians explained.
The NIP was also rejecting samples that are allocated a case number. A sample is rejected when a case number does not match reference details on the form submitted with the samples.
Meanwhile, NIP technicians openly admitted that internal control failures were also contributing to the Covid-19 testing backlog. Samples have to be re-tested using the time-consuming manual method.
There are two controls in the instrument used for testing. If the internal control fails all the 94 samples in the instrument would be regarded as spoiled and the testing will be repeated manually.
“If any of the two internal and quality controls in the instruments fail, we will repeat the whole process with the different method that will now take much time and that will delay the results to be produced on time. And this method only takes 91 samples unlike the Abbot that takes 94 samples,” laboratory technician Josephat Haitembu explained. Sudden power outages were also a contributing factor, although the laboratory has a back-up generator.