Many more coronavirus tests were available than were used
If tests had been carried out more often in March and April, many infections and deaths could have been prevented, according to research by Nieuwsuur. Healthcare providers could have been tested a lot more frequently in the first two months of the outbreak, as many more coronavirus tests were available than were used.
Over the past few months, the government has asserted during debates, interviews and briefings that there was insufficient testing capacity due to lack of materials for testing. Nieuwsuur, therefore, asked all 55 RIVM-approved corona-testing laboratories about their readily available testing capacities in March and April.
Only 30-50 percent of coronavirus tests used
More than 30 laboratories responded and the data shows that only half of the available tests were used in March and in April only 30 percent of tests were used. Healthcare administrators were perplexed for months regarding the inadequate opportunities to test healthcare personnel and patients, and now even more so when they hear that a higher rate of testing would have been possible.
Peter Hoppener of the Brabant care organisation Vivent said: "And the fact that corona actually occurs in nursing homes and in community nursing was already known. And those two things together plus deliberately not testing nursing home staff, I think that's a shame." Hoppener eventually bought corona tests directly from the lab for his staff.
RIVM-approved corona testing labs under-utilised
Not only are healthcare administrators in the hospitals and nursing homes surprised - the laboratories themselves told Niewsuur that they do not understand why they were not deployed. Esther Talboom, director of the Utrecht lab Saltro said "I always thought, use us now. Because we are there, we are doing tests, we have a logistics network with normally 200 locations and we visit people at home and all vulnerable patients. Give us a role."
The same sentiment was felt by Jeroen Bos from the Star-SHL lab in Rotterdam "We were approved by the RIVM within a few days and were able to start. But the numbers fell far short of our expectations. We were able to do more than double the number of tests that we were asked to do." It pained Jeroen Bos to hear the mention of testing shortages in press conferences. “For me, everyone was ready to run 24/7. It is very annoying that you cannot do the work that is there.”
Lack of tests led to unnecessary deaths
Hoppener: "If you had had enough tests, you could have nursed people individually. Now you actually condemn a department to corona at such a moment." The consequences of withholding tests were considerable for health organisations.
Lack of testing made it unclear whether there were infected patients or residents who needed to be isolated. This put a lot of pressure on staff who were unsure whether there was corona in their particular department and even in their homes.
According to Health Minister Hugo De Jonge, more deaths occurred due to insufficient testing. The health minister said that the Outbreak Management Team advised that testing should be done cautiously because testing materials were scarce.