Drawing inspiration from South Korea’s highly-praised drive-through testing centres for Covid-19 that helped the country flatten the curve and reduce the rate of community spread, a district administration in Kerala has devised an innovative model that can make swab sample collection a faster and safe process.
The Ernakulam district authorities, in conjunction with the state health department, Monday unveiled a ‘walk-in sample kiosk’ (WISK) model through which health workers can take swab or blood samples from a potentially-positive person within two minutes. This is the first time such a model is being implemented in the country. The advantage of the WISK model is that health workers don’t have to wear the fast-expendable protective personal equipment (PPE) while drawing samples. This not only releases a huge fiscal pressure on health authorities in terms of procuring PPE kits, but also helps health workers collect samples at the local level rather than doing the same at a hospital.
Ernakulam Collector S Suhas explained the working of the WISK model through a video on his official Facebook page. The kiosk is essentially a cabin closed on all sides with a glass screen in front and two large rubber gloves inserted through openings. The person to be tested has to sit on a chair in front of the glass screen. The health worker meanwhile can enter the cabin, clean hands using a sanitiser, put on disposable gloves and insert her hands into the large rubber gloves through the glass screen. With absolutely no physical interaction between them, the health worker, without using a PPE kit, can safely proceed to draw samples from the person. The person can then take the samples in a glass vial which will be submitted to the health department. As a precaution, a sanitation worker disinfects the large rubber gloves and the glass screen before and post collection of a sample.
The model, if implemented widely, can take the sample collection process out of a hospital to local panchayats, municipalities and corporations. At present, health authorities in Kerala and across the country have limited the sample collection to special triages set up at hospitals with health workers donning PPE kits that have to be disposed each time a swab sample is taken. With the risk of community spread looming ahead, there will be a severe shortage of PPE kits if authorities go for mass testing.
The idea of a walk-in sample kiosk was converted into a realistic and practical model by a team of doctors and officials at the Kalamassery Medical College. The team was led by resident medical officer Dr Ganesh Mohan and included additional district medical officer Dr Vivek Kumar, district assistant nodal officer of Ardram mission Dr Nikhilesh Menon and medical college ARMO Dr Manoj.
Sample collection for PCR tests and rapid antibody tests can be done using WISK, said the district collector. Each WISK cabin can be set up at a cost of Rs 40,000. Local bodies and private individuals have been asked to come forward and fund WISK models in their own respective areas.
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