Dr Bloomfield said it was very difficult for him to guess clinical judgments from general practitioners or people at the testing station.
“The testing station was explicitly established to test and assess all people who have symptoms and apply case definitions,” he told Dr. Reti.
“Maybe not everyone is tested, but that doesn’t mean the GP or testing station is wrong.”
International guidelines say the first choice test for coronavirus is nasal swab, followed by throat swab because the virus lives behind the nose. But Dr Reti said he had been told by doctors that they had run out of nasal swabs, and DHB said there were supply problems.
“We have no problems with nasal swabs and supply chains and the problem may be a distribution problem that we are pulling into the national process,” Dr. Bloomfield answered.
“What I’m going to say is you’re right – I’m not going to challenge you about that. Nasal rubbing is the preferred sample to get. If there is a deficiency in one of the nasal rubbing spots then a throat rub can be used but it’s not ideal. Our goal is to make sure there is a good supply of throat and nose swabs. “
Dr Bloomfield said he did not have figures for nasal and throat swab ratios.
National health spokesman Michael Woodhouse said he was “staggering” to find laboratories scheduling tests they did because they did not have reagents and tapes to test all the swabs that came in.
Health Secretary David Clark said there were “historic” challenges in supplying this.
“The stock of complete test kits continues to grow,” he replied. “They are challenging to be acquired as noted by Skegg last week in the international environment, but we are getting more test equipment.
“Where labs have capacity limits on test kits they refer tests to other labs and they work together.”
But Woodhouse said this problem only a few days ago.
“You can’t deny the laboratory itself has to choose which test to do because it lacks the testing material needed.”
Dr Bloomfield accepted the lack of reagents at Dunedin’s Southern Community Laboratory last week, but this was given on Saturday.
He asked for more details about others who were delayed in testing due to lack of testing material.
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