Srinagar, Sept 26: The Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences’ excessive delay in updating RT-PCR results on the Indian Council of Medical and Research (ICMR) website is inconveniencing people who need COVID test reports for travel and other purposes.
While testing has increased since last year and reports are now available on time, the SKIMS takes at least 4-5 days to update results on ICMR website, which poses a problem for those who need to travel with negative certificates. To prevent the COVID surge, RT-PCR negative valid reports have been made mandatory for people, particularly international flyers or those who have not yet been fully vaccinated, for travel and at a few workplaces.
A student whose flight to Bengaluru was scheduled for September 24th gave her swab for testing on September 23rd and received her results within 24 hours. However, it was only through the intervention of higher officials at SKIMS that she was able to get the results updated.
“I had to literally beg to get my report updated on the website because given the unpredictability of the situation we are in, I could have missed not only my flight but also my semester,” she said. She is an MBBS student in Bangladesh, and her flight was scheduled for 25th September.
“Given the way people work in SKIMS, I could have given my swab 10 days ago to avoid delays. But that was impossible because reports are invalid after 72 hours,” she said, adding that all Government machinery is being used to stop the spread of these diseases, but staffing these labs goes unnoticed.
Echoing similar concerns, an employee at the Srinagar airport said he received his test results three days ago, but his certificate was yet to be updated on the ICMR website. “The SKIMS claims that they update the results within 24-hours, but it usually takes 4-5 days, and people loose lot of time for no reason,” he said.
The delays were attributed to a lack of manpower at the SKIMS to handle the increased volume of tests, according to officials. Since the last two years, the SKIMS lab has been operating around the clock, but its operations have been severely hampered by a lack of personnel dealing with up-dation.
Officials claimed that the lab processes around 2500 tests per day, and that only one person is employed to update the test results on the website. “A research scholar has been assigned the task of updating the website, which is obstructing not only the updating process but also research,” an official said, adding that test results are available within 24 hours but the lab lacks computer resources.
Medical Superintendent Farooq Jan said he was unaware of the issue, but that he had written to the Government about the possibility of a staff shortage. “The contracts of the majority of the staff members are ending by the end of this month, and that may result in a staff shortage if not addressed on time. We are already working on it, and we are hoping to have it resolved this month,” he said.