COVID-19 | The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has urged the government to probe private laboratories offering Covid-19 screenings, including via drive-through.
MMA president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said the move is necessary to avoid a repeat of a reported case involving a family of six, including an elderly couple, who were left at home waiting for a call from the Health Department after being tested positive for Covid-19 by a private laboratory.
"The MMA is deeply concerned that with Covid-19 cases reaching an all-time high, many others may soon be faced with a similar situation.
"But more alarmingly, how was a laboratory allowed to conduct the swab tests? Laboratories are not a healthcare facility.
"According to the Health Ministry, Covid-19 tests by the private sector can only be carried out at a private medical clinic, ambulatory care centre, or a private hospital," Subramaniam said, adding that the report indicated a breach of protocol on proper handling of Covid-19 positive patients.
Health news website CodeBlue previously reported a Petaling Jaya resident, identified as Yong, paid RM2,000 for two private ambulances to take her and her Covid-19-infected parents-in-law - both with underlying medical conditions - to Sungai Buloh Hospital.
Yong reportedly said she was forced to hire the private ambulances after failing to secure admission at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre and calls to the Health Ministry's Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre had gone unanswered.
The 49-year-old Yong reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 on Jan 5 when she voluntarily got screened at a private drive-in laboratory along Jalan Universiti in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, as she experienced severe backache on Jan 3.
Subramaniam said that under the Health Ministry guidelines, it is the responsibility of private healthcare facilities to immediately report any patient confirmed Covid-19 positive to the District Health Office.
The healthcare facility must also ensure arrangements are made for further instructions from the Health Ministry and for an ambulance to pick up the patients from their homes.
"Their job is not done until the patient is sent to the hospital for treatment.
"But in this case, the lab is not a private healthcare facility and therefore should not have been allowed to provide the Covid-19 screening services in the first place," he stressed.
"While the Health Ministry may now be looking into this matter (Yong’s complaint), they should also investigate the private laboratory conducting the drive-through swab tests or others may face similar situations," he added.