233 Covid-19 swab samples mistakenly disposed of by lab before testing
102 patients retested after 233 Covid-19 swab samples accidentally disposed of
A total of 233 Covid-19 swab samples were accidentally disposed of before they were tested, following lapses at a private medical lab.
The batch was collected from clinics under the Swab and Send Home (Sash) programme. The test samples were "inadvertently discarded prior to testing" at the lab, a spokesman for Quest Laboratories told The Straits Times yesterday.
Under the Sash programme, patients who meet certain criteria are swabbed and then sent home to wait for their test results. Their swab samples are sent to a lab, where testing can take up to three working days.
The incident at Quest Laboratories happened last Wednesday and was discovered two days later when clinics began contacting the lab to ask about the test results.
The spokesman said no other sample batches were affected.
One of the lapses involved an in-house courier who did not follow standard operating procedure (SOP) when handing over the untested samples to the lab.
This resulted in the batch being disposed of alongside old samples. The spokesman added that all the samples were disposed of according to Covid-19 safety requirements.
As of Sunday, the 87 affected clinics have been informed of the incident and 102 patients have been retested. Their results have turned up negative, said the lab.
The Health Ministry, which was notified of the incident on Friday, said it is working with the lab and the clinics to contact the affected patients to arrange for them to be re-swabbed as soon as possible.
The lab said the retested samples will be prioritised to ensure that affected patients receive their test results without further delay.
The Straits Times was alerted to the matter by a patient who took a swab test last Wednesday at a Toa Payoh clinic after suffering from a runny nose and fever.
When she did not receive her results two days later, her husband called the clinic and learnt that the delay was due to an incident at Quest Laboratories.
The woman, who declined to be identified, said the delay had inconvenienced both her husband and daughter who had to stay home from work and school, respectively, while waiting for the results.
The ministry said it takes a serious view of the incident and is investigating the matter.
It added that it will work with the lab to put in place measures so such lapses do not happen again.
Investigations by Quest Laboratories found two compliance lapses in its SOPs involving the handling and disposal of specimens.
The lab said: "The first lapse relates to the handover of specimens from the courier to the specimen reception staff. This occurred at the same time the laboratory staff were disposing of old specimens.
"As a second lapse of SOP, laboratory staff were disposing of specimens in the specimen reception area, leading to the erroneous disposal of the untested batch."
The lab spokesman said relevant employees have been notified of the specific issues that led to the incident and the repercussions. The in-house courier will also face disciplinary action.