Dis-Chem stops Covid-19 testing amid big backlog, ‘unanticipated’ spike in Gauteng
Dis-Chem has decided to close its Covid-19 testing facilities “for the foreseeable future” as the company struggles with a backlog in getting test results from the testing labs.
“The unanticipated increase in infections across the country, particularly in Gauteng has put severe pressure on testing labs, which has impacted on the turnaround time for Dis-Chem’s test results,” a spokesperson said.
Gauteng has seen its infections more than triple in just two weeks.
“We are constantly following up with the various laboratories, but they are being forced to prioritise urgent hospital tests. The number of labs that can do the tests is limited and we are spreading our load across as many as possible. Another factor affecting the speed of testing and obtaining results is the reduced number of flights around the country, so transporting tests to the labs from outlying cities and other remote stations is delayed,” says Lizeth Kruger, Dis-Chem’s national clinic manager.
Dis-Chem launched drive-through Covid-19 testing sites in April, with each test costing R850. A month ago, it also started to offer free Covid-19 testing to those without medical aids, and the unemployed.
Kruger says the system was working well until a week ago, but the sudden surge in patient numbers has overwhelmed all facilities.
“The reality of the situation is one that the healthcare sector has never faced an issue of this nature, and the fast-growing infection numbers are having a broad impact. This is just one example of an over-burdened system.”
Dis-Chem will review the situation “on a regular basis”, and may reopen if it believes the various labs can cope with demand. "The pandemic and the rising numbers are leading to panic, and we urge consumers only to get tested if they develop symptoms,” Kruger says.
Dis-Chem, which was fined R1.2 million this week by the Competition Tribunal for hiking surgical face masks at the start of the pandemic, faced some criticism because the company charged its own employees for Covid-19 tests, if those turn out to be negative.