Futile Covid-19 tests for mild cases are crippling healthcare, warn Cape doctors


The doctors, most of whom also work in the health sciences faculty at the University of Cape Town, said testing people with symptoms came at a cost to other health services during previous waves “when severe Covid-19 threatened to overwhelm acute hospital services”.

However, it was questionable now that only 6% of patients were requiring admission — about a third of the number in the first wave.

“To preserve the integrity of primary healthcare services during Covid-19 surges, testing strategies must change,” said Andrea Mendelsohn, Angela de Sá, Erna Morden, Benjamin Botha, Andrew Boulle, Masudah Paleker and Mary-Ann Davies.

“Options could include ramping up testing stations that are delinked from primary healthcare facilities in which public sector patients with mild disease could obtain a Covid-19 test, affordable home-based self-testing, or, if neither of these are feasible, restricted testing to severe Covid-19 patients requiring hospital admission.”

The doctors said only 6% of Covid-19 patients admitted to Western Cape hospitals during the fourth wave had been tested at primary healthcare facilities.

The rest were tested on admission, “suggesting those with severe Covid-19 are seeking care only when they are very ill”.


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