WATCH | Premier tours Frere, pleads for coronavirus testing facilities in the Eastern Cape

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane tours Frere Hospital's coronavirus unit.
Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane tours Frere Hospital's coronavirus unit.

The provincial government has approached the national government about the possibility of creating testing centres in Mthatha and Port Elizabeth and, to a lesser extent, East London, in a bid to shorten the waiting time of 48 hours for Covid-19 test results.

This was announced by health MEC Sindiswa Gomba on Thursday as she accompanied premier Oscar Mabuyane on a site visit to Frere Hospital in East London.

The hospital and the Nelson Mandela Academic hospital in Mthatha are designated as holding facilities for patients who suspect they have come into contact with someone with Covid-19. Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth is the designated quarantine hospital.

“We have 38 laboratories in the province. The major ones are here [at Frere], Port Elizabeth and Mthatha.

“Unfortunately, these labs don't test for the coronavirus. We go through the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), which is in Johannesburg, and it takes 48 hours for us to get the results,” Gomba said.

She said the provincial government's priority was to have testing done in Mthatha and Port Elizabeth.

Gomba said Mabuyane had also suggested that Frere Hospital rope in a pathologist who would then oversee testing at the East London hospital. Without a pathologist Frere would not be able to do the testing.

Frere Hospital microbiology laboratory manager Glenda Bowie demonstrates how a swab is taken from the nose and throat, packaged and stored in a box and transported to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Video: SOYISO MALITI Editing and Production: LUKE CHARTER

The MEC said she believed that if her department could get testing done, at least in Mthatha and Port Elizabeth, it would drastically cut the waiting time and reduce the number of people looking to be tested.

Gomba said: “The premier is anxious for us to actually look at whether we can't get a pathologist who can anchor our own laboratory at Frere.”

Gomba showed Mabuyane the C1 transit ward, which has 20 beds. It has been transformed into a ward for isolation and quarantine.

Frere Hospital microbiology laboratory manager Glenda Bowie demonstrated how, after a swab is taken from the nose and throat, it is transported to the NICD.

Responding to a Daily Dispatch question at an impromptu press briefing, Mabuyane said three high-ranking government officials who had travelled to Sweden, which is neither a medium- nor high-risk country, had been asked to get tested,

“Others [officials] are being looked [for] as we speak. We are encouraging those individuals to come forward. Others have come forward voluntarily.

“We just want whoever has gone outside the borders of our country and province to be tested.”

He said he was pleased with preparations at Frere.

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