Coronavirus in Chile

Private Clinics Point to Nationwide Lack of Testing Material

SANTIAGO – Several private clinics in Chile said they ran out of reagents needed to perform PCR tests. The high demand for tests has overwhelmed the laboratories, they say. The Ministry of Health said the lack of tests is only a problem in the private sector and promoted the use of a different test that gives results on shorter notice.

The private hospital of the University of Chile was the first to announce that it would not conduct any more PCR tests due to a lack of the reagent used to detect the presence of the coronavirus. According to the clinic, the lack is due to a “national shortage” as a result of the increased demand over the last few days.

A similar situation occurred in the laboratories of the Santa María, Dávila, and Vespucio clinics, where PCR tests were suspended “due to technical capacity problems.” Clinics like Integramédica and VidaIntegra said that only PCR tests of critical patients would be analyzed. Other private clinics announced they were also experiencing delays in delivering test results. Private clinics part of Red Salud spoke of a limited stock.

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PCR or polymerase chain reaction tests are able to detect the genetic information of the virus. PCR tests can detect the virus before antibodies are formed or symptoms are presented; in other words, the test can tell whether or not someone has the virus very early on. In Chile, only certain authorized clinics and laboratories, apart from the Institute of Public Health, are allowed to perform these tests.

Today, May 13, the Ministry of Health said these testing problems are only occurring in private laboratories “which represent 15% of the test capacity.” According to the ministry, there is enough stock for the public sector and there are different types of tests available for the private sector, which can deliver a diagnosis on shorter notice.

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