The government is considering allowing six labs to provide rt-PCR testing facilities at international airports in the country, Health Minister Zahid Maleque has said.
The minister made the statement on Tuesday as the authorities work on the logistics to set up the labs following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s instructions on September 6.
The expatriate ministry primarily approved seven private labs or diagnostic centres to establish testing labs at Dhaka airport on September 15.
They were Stemz Health Care (BD) Ltd, CSBF Health Centre, AMZ Hospital, Anwar Khan Modern Medical College and Hospital, ZH Sikder Women's Medical College and Hospital, Gulshan Clinic Limited and DMFR Molecular Lab & Diagnostics.
However, within two days of the announcement, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) informed the lab authorities that before setting up their labs they needed to submit Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Later, five health care companies submitted their SOPs at a meeting while another one was yet to do it.
Seeking anonymity, sources at the meeting said representatives of ZH Sikder Women's Medical College and Hospital were not present while DMFR Molecular Lab did not submit its SOP.
The labs would be established in a single place to ensure zero pressure at the lab facilities. The collected samples would be divided equally among the labs to smoothen the entire process, said the sources at the meeting.
They said DMFR Molecular Lab showed unwillingness toward the unified approach. However, it was given time to inform the authorities of its final decision or submit the SOP.
“Till now it is confirmed that five labs are going to test the samples collected at the airport. However, the final decision is yet to be made. There is nothing final before any circular is given out,” an official from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said.
DGHS to fix a price
As the labs would operate collectively, the DGHS would fix a price for the test. The IEDCR would provide technical support to establish the lab, meeting sources said.
Director General of DGHS Prof Dr Khurshid Alam could not be reached over the phone in this regard.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the labs would set up a temporary testing centre inside the airport while a permanent testing centre would be set up in front of the airport parking.
After the meeting, Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad said as Bangladesh did not have the rapid PCR testing machine right now, the authorities are opting to set up the lab using rt-PCR machines.
He said: “We have kept the rapid testing machine in our consideration and it will be decided later when and where the rapid testing machine will be installed.”
He hoped that the installation might be finished within three days.
Lack of coordination among authorities blamed for the delay
The Ministry for Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and CAAB have speeded up their efforts to set up the testing facilities following the prime minister’s instructions.
However, the statement made by the authorities to the media show that there may be a lack of coordination among the three authorities, which is causing the delay.
Zahid Maleque has said the process is delayed due to the airport authorities selecting the rooftop for setting up the labs, which is not viable.
Meanwhile, Expatriate Minister Imran Ahmed said that involving too many ministries in the process had slowed down the process.
The lab should have been installed a week earlier, he added.
CAAB Chairman Mafidur Rahman, however, saw no issue arising in coordination among the authorities.
He, however, could not confirm when the testing facilities would be open for the several thousands of expatriates waiting to return to their workplaces, mainly in the UAE.