BRAC is assisting the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to install walk-in sample collection booths (kiosk) in areas vulnerable to Novel Coronavirus outbreak across the country. As part of the initiative, at least 50 kiosks will be installed in Dhaka by next week to help speed up the process of sample collection. Fifty more kiosks will be set up across the country soon.
In line with the DGHS directives, BRAC is currently recruiting medical technologists, installing kiosks, collecting samples and transferring those samples to designated testing labs. The DGHS is also assisting BRAC in training technologists and providing sample collection kits to the organisation. A memorandum of understanding will soon be signed in this regard between BRAC and the DGHS.
While kiosks set up at hospitals will be operated by respective hospital staff, two trained medical technologists from BRAC will be collecting samples at the kiosks set up elsewhere. They will collect samples from suspected COVID-19 patients from 9am to 12pm Saturday through Thursday. Every day, technicians will be able to collect samples from 40 people having common symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, dry cough, fatigue, sore throat and respiratory difficulties. Once collected, the samples will be sent to testing facilities designated by the DGHS. Before that, suspected patients will have to fill-up forms prescribed by the DGHS providing personal information including phone numbers. Test results will be sent to respective individuals via text messages to the phone number they are stipulated to provide during sample collection at the kiosks.
Two methods of screening patients are being followed for sample collection. Initially, paramedics will screen suspected patients according to national definitions of cases and contacts. In addition, kiosks located in medical colleges or hospitals or adjacent to these facilities will collect samples from patients referred to them.
Elderly people, people with existing comorbidities, doctors, healthcare workers, staff at health facilities and those working in closed settings such as workplaces or classrooms will be prioritised for sample collection given the constraint in resources.
Associate Director of BRAC Health, Nutrition and Population Programme Morseda Chowdhury said, “We will set up 100 walk-in kiosks across 19 risky regions to expedite the government’s initiative of scaling up testing capacity along with the government's ongoing activities. Half of these kiosks will be set up in Dhaka.”
“Initially, we installed kiosks in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital on a pilot basis. Later, more kiosks were set up at Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Memorial KPJ Specialised Hospital and Nursing College and in Narayanganj in line with the DGHS directive. We have also identified several spots to install kiosks in consultation with two Dhaka city mayors,” Chowdhury added.
As of 11 May 2020, Chowdhury said that 17 kiosks have been installed at 14 spots in Dhaka as per the DGHS directive and that work on installing more booths is in progress.
The institutions where the kiosks are already in operation include Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Memorial KPJ Specialised Hospital and Nursing College, Sheikh Hasina Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute, Government Unani and Ayurvedic Medical College and Hospital and Uttara Adhunik Medical College. Besides this, kiosks have started functioning at community centres located in Dhaka city corporation areas (Naya Paltan, Bashabo, Kamrangirchar, Naya Bazar, Jatrabari and Lalbagh). Two of those are adjacent to slums to serve the low-income population. Few more will cover areas of city corporations such as Uttara, Moghbazar, Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Uttarkhan, Dakkhinkhan and Baunia. Moreover, some more will be opened in different public and private hospital premises to cover more areas.
“BRAC is yet to receive any new funds in this regard. However, the organisation is diverting some of its funds from the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK government to continue its proceedings,” Chowdhury said.
On Monday, 11 May 2020, Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud inaugurated a kiosk on the Dhaka Reporters Unity premises dedicated to collect samples from journalists for COVID-19 tests. Another kiosk will be inaugurated at the National Press Club soon.