The tests to determine the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in residents of residential care homes that were administered incorrectly over the course of the week, because they were equipped with the wrong manual, “should be taken again.”
“If you do not know whether the test was taken properly, they should be taken again,” said professor Erika Vlieghe, head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at UZ Antwerp university hospital, and chair of Belgium’s Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES) on Radio 1, on Friday.
“We now have to look at who took which tests, because if you want good results, you have to test in optimal conditions,” she added, and called the wrong manuals “an example of miscommunication.”
“This is not the time to have something like this happen. It is frustrating for everyone, and especially for everyone in those residential care centres. We have to learn from this,” Vlieghe added.
“It would have been better to do some pilot testing in one or two rest homes, and go from there. But the clock is ticking and everyone wants to do those tests, of course,” she said. “Residential care centres do not have the routine to take those tests. It’s unfortunate that misunderstandings arise that way,” Vlieghe added.
Two months ago, Vlieghe advocated for mobile medical teams to carry out tests in residential care centres, but “due to a confluence of circumstances, this has not become a reality,” she said, adding that it “would not be a bad thing” to invest in more manpower and expertise for residential care centres.
Last weekend, the first batch of 20,000 tests kits, made available by federal Minister Philippe De Backer’s task force, was distributed to care centres and nursing homes across the country. Flanders received 11,000 tests, Wallonia 7,000 and Brussels 2,000.
The Flemish Minister for Public Health, Wouter Beke, was slammed for allowing the situation in many Flemish care centres to become critical, as at least 20 nursing homes have reported internal outbreaks and infection clusters, and over 600 residents in the region have died from a confirmed or suspected coronavirus infection. Care workers have called on the Minister for more protection equipment, more support for the staff and more testing material.
In Wallonia, a government report revealed that nursing home residents made up a third of the French-speaking region’s total coronavirus deaths. In Brussels, too, a third of nursing homes have been hit by the virus.
At the moment, tests are being carried out in priority institutions throughout the country, and new deliveries of test kits to all other residential care centres and rest and care homes will follow “very soon,” according to the Federal Public Health Service.
The new kits will allow the testing capacity to be fully deployed, to get a good picture of the presence of the virus in the sector, as only severely ill patients and healthcare personnel were tested until recently.
The Brussels Times