Saturday, July 4, 2020

Private hospital COVID-19 test mutates into a national security issue

The Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has been sucked into the battle between the Ministry of Health COVID-19 Response Team and the Gaborone Private Hospital (GPH) over coronavirus test results.

intelligence brief intercepted by the Sunday Standard titled: “Conflicting Covid-19 test results”, suggests a storm is raging between the private hospital and health officials at the government enclave.The DIS was dragged into the matter in an effort to put a stop to a looming public health crisis.“It has been reported by the Chairman of the Private Health Medical Practitioners that the ongoing feud between them and the government health sector is subjecting the country to a ticking time bomb concerning the recent probable cases handed to them by Gaborone Private Hospital,” reads part of the document.

According to him (Chairman of the Private Health Medical Practitioners), the brief explained, GPH as is their procedure on prescreening patients coming for daily services in their facility, screened the patients for COVID-19, took samples and outsourced testing from Lancet Laboratory (a WHO accredited lab in South Africa).“The results came out positive,” the brief further states.

While he acknowledged that the Directorate does not disclose contents of intelligence reports on any subject matter of national security concern to the media, DIS Public Relations Officer Edward Robert told Sunday Standard that the Directorate has a role to play in ensuring that the country’s strategic economic and political interests are not compromised by the spread of Covid-19 and other challenges it continues to pose.The brief further explained that as is procedure, the GPH has handed the Government Health Sector on COVID-19 the patients’ result (not publicly announcing them) as probable cases (as is the term used when referring cases to another medical facility) for the Government Health Sector to manage.“It appears this did not sit well with Government Health Sector on COVID-19 according to the report.  It is reported that the Government Health Sector did their own test locally and reported in the media that the cases were negative. The report further has it that the Government Health Authorities did a mistake by not seeking for the 3rd laboratory opinion as the two labs had conflicting results,” the brief states.

Quoting a report, the intelligence brief noted that the procedure is that where two labs have conflicting results, new biological specimens are collected from the same patients and tested by a third lab before results can be officially publicized.“It is reported that Lancet in South Africa still maintains the cases tested which were announced as negative(15/06/2020) by the Government Health Authorities on COVID-19 are positive cases and that realising (sic) them to the community is a risky move that will be undertaken by the Botswana Government Health Authority on COVID-19 as in few days the country might record high numbers  COVID 19 local transmissions which the country may not be ready or capacitated to handle once they spiral out of control,” the brief states.

It further states: “Lancet Laboratory in South Africa is reported to be of high standard than our local National Laboratory. An intervention on this issue of National Security is therefore a necessity.”The DISS’ Edward Robert said the outbreak of a pandemic such as Covid-19 constitutes new challenges to every sector in the country as has been demonstrated in the last two months.Covid-19 also poses concerns for national security starting with movement of people and goods in, out and throughout the country.“Covid-19 as a novel communicable disease lends itself to national security concerns and emerges as the newest threat begging to be considered in the country’s National Security
Strategy. So the DIS like other stakeholders is all hands on deck,” said Robert.

He said the Directorate also sits in the National Covid-19 Task Force and like other stakeholders, continues to advise government where necessary as the country continues to grapple with challenges of Covid-19.Contacted for comment, the GPH general manager, Mpho Gabonewe confirmed that the hospital outsourced COVID-19 laboratory tests to Lancet laboratories in South Africa.“In this particular case GPH did take same swabs from patients that were suspected to have COVID 19 and were sent to South Africa,” said Gabonewe.

He explained that the results came out positive and the ministry of health was informed about the results.He said both parties (from GPH and officials from Ministry of Health) met at the Mministry of Health headquarters and came to a conclusion that the ministry would verify the results as the country it capable of performing such tests.  Gabonewe said the results conducted in Botswana by health officials came out negative as GPH they informed the Lancet laboratories about the conflicting results. He explained that the variation is now being investigated to find out what could have gone wrong and both labs are busy working together to establish the variation.“At this juncture I am not sure when the variation be completed,” he said.

Gabonewe further stated that the public should not panic and the matter will be dealt with thoroughly.Last week, the Ministry gave the hospital the greenlight to partially open critical services like the emergency and oncology units.  Meanwhile the COVID-19 Task Force has informed all those who were instructed to self-quarantine after their visit to Gaborone Private Hospital from 8 June to 12 June 2020 that they no longer need to do such.Recently the Director of Health Services Dr Malaki Tshipayagae announced that Botswana has recorded 79 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases with 25 recoveries, one death and four recoveries.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.