Private, public labs compete for test kits

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 December, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 December, 1997, 12:00am

Government clinics and hospitals have been competing with private laboratories for test kits and chemicals, it emerged yesterday.

The Hong Kong Medical Association had said quick tests for influenza A would be available in private laboratories early last week, but the service did not start until Monday.

Association spokesman Dr Lo Wing-lok said the delay was due to limited stock of the kits and chemicals.

'Some labs have complained that priority was given to the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority,' he said.

'I've discussed the problem with [Director of Health Margaret Chan Fung-chun] and she promised to ask the supplier to either produce more kits or re-adjust the allocation arrangement,' Dr Lo said.

One lab that started providing the service on Monday afternoon said it had been hounding the supplier for two weeks.

'I had to call the supplier every two days. We kept worrying what we would do if private doctors started requesting the services before the arrival of the test kits,' laboratory manager Vicky Chu Lai-chun said.

The laboratory had conducted 11 tests by last night. None of the results was positive.

'The demand is much bigger than expected. The situation has worsened quickly in the past few days especially after the Government announced its chicken slaughter decision,' she said.

Ms Chu said the laboratory had ordered enough testing kits to conduct 40 tests and would order more.

But she warned that the quick tests were not 100 per cent reliable. They could provide false results if samples were not taken properly.