“When can I see my son again?” – frustrated nurse asks over backlogged COVID-19 results

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A nurse, who was employed with Dr Seepersaud Chatterdeo, the paediatrician who tested positive for COVID-19 after his demise, has expressed frustration at the long time she was asked to wait before results can be available.

Dr Chatterdeo died on Sunday last after being rushed to the Balwant Singh Hospital. He was a leading paediatrician in the country. On Friday evening, his family confirmed that a posthumous test returned positive.

Sasha Hublall-Ali, a nurse who worked with Dr Chatterdeo at the Balwant Singh Hospital, wrote on her social media account one day later on Saturday that she had been experiencing symptoms such as loss of taste and smell; and congestion.

According to Hublall-Ali, she left her seven-month-old son with her grandmother and went into self-quarantine. A call was made to the COVID-19 hotline number and she was told to visit the Herstelling Health Centre the following day for testing.

The nurse claimed that she was tested on August 31 – one day after Dr Chatterdeo succumbed. She said on September 1, a member of staff from the Balwant Singh Hospital instructed her to go to the Georgetown Public Hospital after inquiring of her condition but she opted to call the health centre to collect her results.

Sasha Hublall-Ali

There, she was told that the test is processed in 48 hours and can be collected in two to three weeks. The nurse is contending that this process is too long and she cannot stand the long wait.

“I was told that I’ll receive results in 2-3 weeks. Why is this taking so long? When can I see my son again? By the time I find out my results, will I have to quarantine for longer?” Hublall-Ali expressed.

When contacted, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony said that he will have to get an update on the situation.

In a statement, the family of Dr Chatterdeo had said, “The relevant authorities have embarked on contact tracing but in the circumstances, we are urging that all who may have been in contact with him over the past two (2) weeks to be vigilant and observe the recommended guideline-directed behaviour such as social distancing, hand washing and wearing of masks.”

Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony

They called on persons who may have come into recent contact with Dr Chatterdeo to be vigilant for COVID-19 signs and symptoms. These would include fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of smell and taste, excessive tiredness, sore throat, diarrhoea, body aches and pains.

During a press conference on Friday, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony said the country’s sample backlog, which was placed at about 1900, has been reduced to less than 1000 with assistance from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). On Monday, another 500 samples will be sent for processing.

With the increased need for testing in Guyana, Government has taken a decision to procure automated systems to reduce processing time and bolster their capacity. These new systems, once installed, will reduce the time from nine to two hours. The National Reference Laboratory is working round the clock, with technicians on three shifts. This enables from 250 to 300 tests to be processed per day.