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COVID-19 tests only being performed on Persons Under Investigation: AKUH

KARACHI: Aga Khan University (AKU) Hospital is conducting coronavirus tests across Pakistan only on Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) due to shortage of testing kits, said doctors on Monday.

The doctors, while addressing a press conference today, said the people are being screened for COVID-19 who are having symptoms of the pandemic including fever, cough, respiratory problems or travel history in the last 14 days and contact history with a known COVID-19 patient.

The patients tested positive for COVID-19 are being informed by the government about their results and being directed to hospitals admitting coronavirus cases. In addition to already existing hospitals, this also includes hospitals the government has set up specially to admit and treat COVID-19 cases, the press statement read.

The hospital is charging Rs7,900 for COVID-19 PCR test that covers only the cost of conducting the test and required reagents and AKUH is not profiting from the screening tests.

The physicians said ¬†AKUH’s response to this global pandemic is critical as the number of COVID-19 cases are rising in Pakistan.

Aga Khan University AKUH coronavirus tests COVID-19

The COVID-19 screening, testing and treatment protocol followed by the Aga Khan University Hospital is the same protocol that is being followed worldwide. Screening is a technique used in medicine to determine the likelihood of a person having a disease. This includes a set of questions which have been designed as per the guidelines set by WHO and at AKUH Karachi screening for COVID-19 is done at the Community Health Centre (CHC), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

AKUH has collaborations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other leading international partners, universities and hospitals, all of which help us act as a credible source for information and advice for the federal and provincial governments and the National Institute of Health.

“The COVID-19 disease outbreak is no different. When this disease outbreak first surfaced, our experts in Health Sciences, Infectious Diseases, Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine and Clinical Laboratories, among others, went into full-force, supported by our administrative leadership teams, to better understand the virus, epidemiology, patient management protocols and diagnosis.”

“COVID-19 is a new virus and can currently only be reliably diagnosed through a PCR-based technique which requires a swab taken from the nose. Any other technique, such as blood-based antibody testing may provide an indirect measure of exposure to the virus but should not be used in isolation and can provide incorrect results; the PCR based technique is the trusted and recommended standard COVID-19 test by the World Health Organization (WHO).”

“While the country-wide COVID-19 response plans were being worked upon, in January 2020, in an attempt to make the COVID-19 PCR test available in Pakistan, the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi (AKUH, K) Laboratory experts imported certain reagents and equipment, worked on a testing regimen and was able to make a reliable test to diagnose COVID-19.”

The AKUH Karachi Clinical Laboratories act as international reference labs and insist on high-quality materials to ensure high levels of test result accuracy, guided by the world-class accreditations it has from the Joint Commission International as well as the College of American Pathologists.

This was critical at this stage because testing kits were not yet available in Pakistan, so this effort was undertaken to make available the very critical testing ability, that that country did not have at that time.

The surplus collected by the hospital has always been used to help patients access quality health services through welfare and zakat, and financially challenged students access quality educational programmes through subsidies and aid.

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