A recent survey conducted by Healthcare Federation of India (Nathealth), an association of leading private hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and medical technology companies has found that the country's private coronavirus testing facilities are underutilised.
The survey, carried out among 50 private laboratories across 13 states, indicated that while the public sector is running at near full capacity, the private sector is being utilised only at 25-30 per cent. The surveyed labs are working only single shifts, doing cumulative 5,000 tests per day with 17 labs doing less than 100 tests per day and 6 labs not doing any testing at all.
According to Nathealth, the current COVID testing capacity in India stands at 150,000-170,000 tests per day with the public sector capacity at about 110,000 tests per day and private sector capacity at about 60,000 tests per day. Of the 100,000 tests that are carried out per day in the country, only 15,000-20,000 tests per day are done by private labs, the association points out.
Lab operators also mentioned significant on the ground operational issues. 56 per cent of the survey respondents face logistics challenges which can be solved by sample flow between districts and states to ensure better utilisation, the survey points out. Similarly, 54 per cent face difficulties with guidelines and procedures which the association feels can be solved by standardisation of forms and simplified approval processes for sample collection. The respondents also said that 24 per cent of them require expedited payments to tide over immediate liquidity challenges and consolidated procurement of consumables/kits.
The respondents to the survey highlighted that support is needed across central and state governments to ramp up testing. "There is a potential to increase the testing capacity by 6 times through better utilisation and 2-shift operations in private labs. Improving existing capacity utilisation to 80 per cent will increase testing to 14,000 tests per day assuming 1 shift operation. Additionally, increasing shifts to 2 will increase testing by 30,000 tests per day. We need to act now with cases expecting to peak further by mid-June 2020," they association points out.