Nakuru County will no longer take samples from suspected Covid-19 patients to Kisumu for examination after construction of a modern testing centre, a project already approved by the devolved unit’s administration.
The new laboratory to be constructed at the Nakuru Level 5 Teaching and Referral Hospital will be funded by the county government in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Amref Health Africa and COVID-19 Response Project-Kenya.
County Medical Laboratory Technologist Dr. Rose Gachie said the new facility will be designed to bolster testing capacity and reduce tests turnaround time. It will also be used for HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and other tests.
The laboratory which will also serve the neighbouring counties of Kericho, Laikipia, Baringo and Narok will be equipped with a capacity to test between 60 to 100 samples in 24 hours.
Speaking while launching training for the first batch of 60 Medical Laboratory Technologists to build capacity on COVID-19 testing, Dr. Gachie stated the facility will comply with established standards and enabling regulatory laws for the practice of medical lab personnel working in a high containment environment.
“We will be seeking approval from The Kenya Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists Board (KMLTTB) before services kick off. Officials from the board will also train county health workers on Covid-19 testing.
“The laboratory will be equipped with ultra-modern apparatus. This is a milestone because Nakuru will be designated a Covid-19 testing site in Kenya,” she explained.
Dr. Gachie was flanked by among others Director of Public Health Services, Ms Elizabeth Kiptoo who noted that laboratory testing was a key component detection, diagnosis, treatment and analysis of Covid-19.
The Director said the facility will reduce processing of the results’ timeline from the current 5 days to less than 24 hours.
“Currently, it takes up to five days for results to be out. The up scaling of tests across the country is overwhelming the national testing labs.
“The laboratory will also help reduce the time truckers wait to get results from our Covid-19 testing facility at Mai Mahiu Health Center,” she affirmed.
Within the larger Rift Valley Region, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which serves 22 counties, is the only centre activated to test for Covid-19. Other testing centres are National Influenza Laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya Medical Research Institute (Nairobi), Kemri Wellcome Trust Kilifi County, Kemri CDC Kisumu County and the Kenyatta National Hospital.
The county has been sending medical samples of suspected Covid-19 cases to Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) laboratories in Kisumu for analysis.
Amref Health Africa- Kenya’s Sustainable Laboratory Quality Systems project manager Mr Julius Tome said the County’s susceptibility to Covid-19 had been heightened by its location as a major transit route to neighbouring countries and that nothing should be left to chance in combating spread of the disease.
Dr. Gachie stated that the county government has expanded the testing process from long distance drivers to include restaurants, entry points and communities as well as other high risk areas.
She observed that the number of those seeking to be tested for the disease had shot up after the devolved unit rolled out free COVID-19 test for workers in the tourism and hospitality industry.
The County is also actively involved in testing Long distance truckers at major stopovers located Salgaa, Gilgil, Mau Summit Total and Kikopey truck parking bays.
Dr. Gachie called on County residents to embrace the mass testing which was the only way of identifying infected persons with a view of tracing contacts for containment and treatment.
County Medical Laboratory Technologist assured that the government shall meet the cost of treatment and quarantine for those affected and that people should not be afraid to come out for testing.
“I appeal to those turning up for the tests to give accurate contact information for easier tracking and follow-ups. In the event we cannot contact and treat those infected then the whole fight against the spread of the virus will be in vain,” warned Dr. Gachie.
By Jane Ngugi