Healthcare authorities today said they planned a regulated expansion of the kiosk or "wisk" approach for Covid-19 testing, engaging non-government or private organizations as the situation demands an intensified campaign to detect infections.
Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said the South Korean approach called Walk-In Sample Kiosk (WISK) appeared safe and effective in collecting samples as the makeshift booths created scopes for Covid-19 suspects to be tested avoiding hassles and saving time.
"We see huge demands for 'kiosks' as three private organizations are now collecting samples installing booths at key coronavirus spots in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Chattogram" while non-government JKG Health Care pioneered the initiative, DGHS additional director general Prof Nasima Sultana told BSS.
BRAC and Digital Healthcare Solution are two other NGOs to extend services in collecting samples.
She said the three organizations were currently extending the service free of cost but several other private organizations now applied to DGHS seeking to replicate the system under payment system.
"We are reviewing their proposals as we plan to expand the testing facilities engaging the non-government or private sector," Sultana said.
The first two sample collection booths or wisks were set up in Narayanganj on April 8.
The 'wisks' are sanitized glass cabins from where medical technologists or healthcare professionals with protective gears collect throat swabs of people who stand or sit outside while one health worker with extra protection requires to remain outside during sample collections.
"The booth model is safe for health workers and the people want to be tested as well . . . it became popular as the people are getting the service almost at their doorsteps," Sultana said.
According to DGHS 61 PCR labs were set up across the country which now examines 15,000 to 18,000 samples, every day.
Sultana said a total of 25 private hospitals and diagnostic centres by now secured DGHS approval for sample testing against the backdrop of crucial needs for widening Covid-19 testing facilities,
JKG Health Care convenor Dr Sabrina Arif Chowdhury said currently 44 wisks of theirs were operating with 400 trained health workers in Dhaka and Narayanganj, following a South Korean model, now being replicated in several countries.
"We are collecting 300 to 400 samples in these booths every day as a large of number of people with Covid-19 symptoms queue up daily," she said adding until now none of their 'wisk' workers were infected due to adequate precautionary measures.
Medical technologist inside the cabin use special gloves while collecting samples and after collection of each sample, the gloves and the chair used by the person to be tested is disinfected.
Sabrina said JKG Health Care now intends to set up more wisks in different other coronavirus epicentres.
BRAC's associate director for Health, Nutrition and Population Programme Morsheda Chowdhury said their organisation set up 49 walk-in kiosks in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Chattogram.
"We will set up 100 walk-in kiosks in Covid-19 vulnerable regions in the country to supplement government efforts expedite and scale-up testing capacity," Morsheda said.
She said their organisation earmarked 19 Covid-19 hotspots across the county to install the booths but half of the kiosks would be in the capital alone.
Morsheda said currently BRAC was running the wisks with own finance but simultaneously sought donors support as it planned to expand the facility to serve a larger number of Covid-19 suspects.
"In a densely populated country like Bangladesh, kiosks are crucial to test the suspects with lesser risks of spread of the contamination," she said.
In line with DGHS directives the three NGOs send their collected samples to designated testing labs and convey as well the test results to the persons examined through text messages.