Shoddy lab tests put people's lives on line

DOULOT AKTER MALA | Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Unholy practices by ill-equipped private laboratories escalate the cost of pathological tests in Bangladesh, forcing people to conduct multiple tests only to get reports of dubious quality.

Such diagnostic outlets allegedly collect pathological samples and throw those into bucket, which young medics mock as 'bucket tests.'

Pathological laboratories of these centres, without having proper testing equipment and reagents, carry out all types of tests and give reports within a short time on demand.

It has also been alleged that there is a nexus between dishonest physicians and businessmen on running such laboratories, leading to their mushrooming growth across the country.

In most cases, a patient, especially from outside the metropolitan cities, has to bear costs of at least two to three pathological tests for a diagnosis recommended by doctors due to unreliable reports.

Shafiul Hassan Shameem, cancer specialist at National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital, Dhaka, said those fake diagnostic centres deliver reports such as blood creatinine or CBS in 15 minutes at the upazila level, which should take at least two to three hours.

"Actually, they do not have any reagents or analyser. Even, it happens in case of ultrasound, in that case, they provide previously preserved images," he said.

In many cases, those diagnostics copy the signs of doctors and print diagnostic reports with it, he added.

"In case of cancer tests, I have found some suspicious tumor tracing report from a few diagnostic laboratories," said Mr Shammem, who also practices in Mymensingh as a cancer specialist.

At the upazila level, Dr Sifat E Syed, assistant professor of Psychiatry of BSMMU said there are many small diagnostic labs, which conduct pathological tests in a short period of time, though it is doubtful whether they have the technology or reagents to do so.

"Doctors usually don't rely on their reports and mockingly call them 'bucket test' as we assume they obtain a sample, throw it into a bucket and then prepare an imaginary report," she said.

Some of the centres, even in the metropolitan areas, have only a single laptop and printer rather than testing equipment, sources said.

On several occasions, it has been found that some hospitals and testing laboratories are conducting sham COVID-19 tests.

Selling of fake virus reports by Regent Hospitals owned by scamster Shahed and JKG Healthcare run by government heart surgeon Sabrina and her husband underpinned the pervasive nature of medical testing compromised with quality.

The two cases are seen as tip of the iceberg since more than 10,000 diagnostics, clinics and private hospitals are operating across the country, many without licences.