By Goodluck Musinguzi
Doing a bad test everyday is not the same as doing a good test once, Dr Diana Atwine, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health says she chose a diagnostic technique recommended by World Health Organisation than cheap and affordable pushed by middlemen in Kampala.
She said this after Sunday Monitor and its partners accused her of causing loss of public funds to a tune of $4,232,912 (Shs15.5b) occasioned on the procurement of highly-inflated sample collection and transportation kits.
Dr Diana Atwine said in Clinical laboratory Testing there is a simple law that is followed, Cheap,Fast and Accurate. She said most times you will have only two traits.
She said most people pick the first two Cheap and Fast but Accuracy is always out of reach if you mishandle process of procuring. When Coronavirus pandemic spread every sane officer or government would be a steward for ACCURANCY.
Dr Diana Atwine said PCR test is one of the most high end priced and time consuming as it takes a minimum of 4 hours even in highly subsidized tests like HIV.
She wonders how Sunday Monitor and its partners in what they called an “investigation” to miss out such a fact. They quoted Karry B Mullis a noble prize winner for chemistry in 1993 out of context with an intent to mislead the public.
Dr Diana said the price of PCR ranges from 11 dollars(for HIV which has been highly subsidized) to 120 dollars for Hepatitis B. Therefore its misleading to say that these test kits are inexpensive and fast.
She said before coronavirus pandemic started Uganda government had pre-existing PCR equipment already in place. These include Roche at CPHL, Gene Xpert machines all over the country.
aBi at Makerere University and UVRI, mobile labs that use altona. its only Abbott that has been imported in the country starting last August 2020.
Dr Diana Atwine said these machines use World Health Organisation(WHO) and FDA approved test kits to carry out COVID-19 tests. However, the Ministry of Health agrees with Sunday Monitor that PCR is the most important scientific advance in molecular biology.
World Health Organisation(WHO)’s latest repeated assessment has the latest guidelines issued on 11th September 2020, continues to emphasize the use of PCR as opposed to the so called Cheap, affordable being pushed by middle men and a few leaders who google and make conclusions.
She says these middlemen who failed to supply testing kits are behind continuous social media attacks on Ministry of Health.
In India, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday directed states to stop using rapid antibody test kits procured from China after their results showed inconsistencies. The statement came after several states raised concerns over performance of tests.
Those who don’t work in a laboratories are often willing to sacrifice accuracy for speed and cost. But many countries that made that mistake are returning back to do what is right.