COVID-19: BMC won't test patients who die before admission

Updated: Apr 11, 2020, 09:21 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Kin of deceased will be told to remain in home quarantine, will be tested if they show symptoms

The BMC will soon set up one of two new testing labs for COVID-19 at Sion hospital. File pic
The BMC will soon set up one of two new testing labs for COVID-19 at Sion hospital. File pic

The two labs at Kasturba and KEM have been working 24x7 to test the huge load of samples for COVID-19, and the BMC will set up two more in the city in the next couple of weeks. But, these laboratories won't test those who die before being admitted, as the civic body has recently told all hospitals not to collect samples from deceased patients.

Senior civic officials said that while one laboratory will be set up in Sion Hospital, the other will be set up in KEM hospital. "We have purchased the equipment and it is yet to be delivered. The laboratory at Sion hospital will be set up over the next two weeks. We are looking for space within KEM's premises to set up another lab, and if not, then it will be set up in a BMC-owned building nearby in the next 7-10 days," said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner.

No testing deceased patients

Civic sources said that all hospitals in the city were asked to stop testing deceased patients about a week ago. Kakani said, "If the sample has been taken before the patient died, then we have to wait for the test results. But there is no protocol for collecting samples after death. We have issued directions that no samples should be collected after death. The virus may have been altered since the exact time of death is not known and the sample may not give the correct picture." A doctor from a civic hospital said that the patient's family members will be asked to remain in home quarantine and tested if they show symptoms.

'Use rapid antibody test'

Considering the growing rate of positive cases and largely asymptomatic patients, experts, however, feel that it may not be a good idea to send the family members back home without testing. Dr Preeti Mehta, former head of department, Microbiology, at KEM hospital said that the rapid antibody test can be a more cost effective and efficient screening mechanism in this case. "If there was a strong suspicion that the deceased patient might have been a positive case, then the family members should be tested to try and contain further chances of the infection from spreading. Instead of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing kits, the high-risk contacts can be given a rapid antibody test to see whether their immune system is fighting a current infection. If required then the person can be given the PCR test which can detect the component of the virus itself," she said.

'An effective way'

Dr Mehta added that unlike the PCR test that requires a laboratory, the rapid antibody test can be done anywhere. "The IgM rapid antibody test is not as expensive and takes only 10 minutes to complete. Considering we are in stage three of the epidemic, this can be an effective way to cover the susceptible people," she said.

Civic officials said that each machine has a starting capacity of testing 72 samples and it can be increased. As per a report by the Public Health Department, Maharashtra has a mortality rate of 7.1 per cent and ranks third among states.

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