The Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority is converting the old medical records office at Mt Hagen Hospital into a new laboratory to install a PCR machine to conduct Covid-19 tests.
PCR or polymerase chain reaction is a technique used to conduct tests for rapid results.
The WHPHA is keen to use this machine in order to carry out immediate contact tracing and surveillance within the same cluster of a Covid-19 positive case to help contain the spread of the virus.
Currently all swabs are sent to the Central Pharmacy Health Laboratory (CPHL) in Port Moresby and the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) in Goroka as well as to laboratories in Brisbane and Singapore which take at least 3-4 weeks for the results to return.
“This we believe is too long and by the time the results are back, a whole community or communities are affected if there is a positive case and we don’t want to see this happen”, said Dr Zure Kombati, the WHPHA’s Pathology Laboratory Manager.
The National Department of Health has identified an unused PCR machine at Nonga Base Hospital in East New Britain and arrangements have been made for courier company, TNT Air Cargo to have it delivered to Mt Hagen Hospital.
Meanwhile, contractors are currently busy working on the new laboratory for the PCR machine to be installed. The machine cannot be installed in the current pathology laboratory as there is not enough space.
Kiwa Builders of Banz, Jiwaka Province who started work on the new laboratory a month ago hope to complete it within the next two months depending on the availability of funds.