(Natural News) There is a critical shortage of the chemicals necessary to conduct Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) testing, according to reports, which means fewer and fewer people are able to find out if they might be infected.
Known as reagents, the chemicals needed to process the tests are in short supply, the latest evidence of a broken medical supply chain that is showing no signs of repair anytime soon.
While many hospitals and other testing operations had spent months trying to maximize their testing capacity, the reagents shortages have set them back to a testing capacity reminiscent of what it was back in the spring. Consequently, only the most “essential” patients are now able to be tested.
Mark Steadham, president and CEO of Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers near Chicago, says that his facility has had to cut back its testing capacity by about one-third. This is because his hospital business is only receiving about one-third the amount of rapid-testing kits it was getting back in the summer.
A spokesperson from Abbott, the company that manufactures the testing kits, indicated in a statement that it is continually ramping up its testing capacity to keep up with “demand,” but that there just are not enough chemicals available to get the job done.
“We felt like we were just starting to get ahead of the virus,” Steadham says, noting that it has become difficult in his community of about 51,000 people to know if or to what degree the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading there.
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Health systems now doing “pooled testing” where multiple patients are tested using the same testing kit
Back in April, there were around 15.8 million Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) testing kits distributed to hospitals and testing sites all across America. As of August, that number jumped to 37.6 million, a marked increase.
At the same time, shortages of reagents and other supplies have sealed a cap on this number, preventing it from expanding much further.
A survey conducted by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, which represents commercial, hospital and public-health laboratories, revealed that somewhere in the ballpark of 67 percent of labs are having trouble acquiring both reagents and testing kits – the highest number since May.
In late June, that figure was around 58 percent for testing kits and 46 percent for reagents, shortages of which had been getting calculated separately from one another.
This is especially problematic, some experts claim, now that the Northern Hemisphere is entering “flu season,” as both Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) testing kits and seasonal influenza testing kits utilize the same components, equipment, and even personnel.
“This is a big country, and we still haven’t been able to settle the testing issue,” laments Michael Ducey, president of Riverside Health System, which recently had to cut its 1,200 weekly testing kits by about 20 percent due to prolific shortages.
“Demand for tests, including testing instruments and consumables, remains high,” adds Patrick Berth, a spokesperson for Roche Holding AG, one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of reagents and testing kits.
In an attempt to help solve the problem, one company known as Advocate Aurora recently unveiled a “pooled testing” program where multiple patients can be tested using a single testing kit.
This so-called “community” testing approach has alleviated the shortages some, though there are still said to be an inadequate number of testing kits and supplies available to health groups that are seeking to test many more people than they currently are able to.
“The most frustrating part is that we have people who are coming to ask us to help care for their patients and we can’t do it because we don’t have the supplies,” whined Eric Young, director of laboratory services for Sentara Healthcare.
“I have the capacity to do everything else, but I can’t get that last piece to run the tests.”
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