Kenya: COVID-19 - Langata Hospital, Kemri Clash On Testing of Samples

A war of words has erupted between the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) and Langata Hospital over Covid-19 tests that the State agency has been conducting on behalf of the private health provider.

While Langata Hospital insists that Kemri agreed to test all coronavirus samples from the facility, the agency insists that the two parties had a memorandum of understanding to only test persons in the food and beverage department.

Kemri holds that its agreement with Lang'ata was that it only conducts tests on people in the service industry which, requires several exams, before they are employed.

However, according to managers of Lang'ata Hospital, there was no MoU signed between them and Kemri, adding that all they had was an understanding that they test their clients for Covid-19.

DISHONEST

"Kemri should stop being dishonest and tell Kenyans the truth. The people we were taking to the institute were not of any category, but all our clients who needed the Covid-19 test. It's the institute that came up with the amount of Sh4,000, which we would pay after every test," said the management.

They noted that they would ferry people in their ambulance to the institute for a test.

"We charged Sh5,500. The hospital was taking Sh1,500 for the fuel and paying Sh4,000 to Kemri for a test."

In a letter seen by the Nation written to the hospital by Kemri dated July 3 under the subject: "Covid-19 testing", the State agency confirmed that in June and July, they have tested Covid-19 samples for the hospital, though it did not indicate the number.

"This is to confirm that in June and July this year, we have tested a number of samples for Covid-19 for Langata Hospital at our laboratory in the centre for Microbiology Research in Kemri," read the letter signed by Dr Benjamin Ngugi, clinical research scientist coordinator, Centre for Microbiology Research.

For instance on June 25, the hospital paid Kemri Sh60,000 for Covid-19 tests for their staff. And on June 24, it paid another Sh140,000 for their clients' tests.

"They've been happily taking money from us for two months now for the Covid-19 tests, and when they heard that the hospital was raided by technicians, they went and wrote a statement that they would be stopping walk-in patients. They should tell Kenyans the truth, not painting the hospital wrongly," the hospital management said.

Kemri is also alleged to be conducting Covid-19 tests using kits donated to the country while charging Kenyans who need the test.

COLLECTION OF SAMPLES

A top official at Kemri, who sought anonymity, said that the Centre for Microbiology Research (CMR) located in Kenyatta National Hospital complex has been conducting tests using kits donated by China's billionaire Jack Ma through his Alibaba Foundation.

"The CMR has been charging Sh5,000 for the tests using kits that were donated by Jack Ma, which is quite unfortunate, because the samples that were paid for were given priority while the rest piled up in the backlog," the source said.

The Nation has seen a list at Afya House for laboratories approved to test for the virus, and established that CMR is not listed among the approved labs.

Recently, there has been a push and pull between various laboratories and other institutions over who should conduct the Covid-19 tests.

This is because the majority of the officers who handle the Covid-19 tests are not certified lab technicians.

It has now emerged that Kemri was working with the hospital to make money from Kenyans, yet it should not be charging for the tests.

The hospital management challenged Kemri to come out and deny that they were not doing Covid-19 testing to the public.

COLLECT SAMPLES

Last week, Kemri indicated that it will no longer collect Covid-19 samples for testing, but instead test samples from various designated testing facilities in the country. In a statement, the institute indicated that collection of samples at the headquarters and all its centres and stations will not be allowed.

"We would like to notify the public and our esteemed cooperate that Kemri will not be handling sample collection for Covid-19 testing. However, the institute will continue to discharge its national duty of conducting the sample testing in all our designated laboratory countrywide," said part of the statement.

In a letter Kemri Director-General Yeri Kombe signed, he instructed those who need their samples collected to make a formal request to the institute so that necessary arrangements can be done to dispatch a team to their various premises.

"Walks in our facilities will not be allowed," Prof Kombe said.

But the hospital management said the institute was just reacting because they were caught in the middle of everything.

The management indicated that the hospital is not closed, noting that only their laboratory has been shut.

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