PSOJ calls for decentralisation of COVID-19 testing to improve access and reduce costs

KINGSTON, Jamaica—The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) has called for affordable and widescale availability of rapid COVID-19 testing as a key component to the country’s coronavirus response and management, as the country moves into the endemic stage of the campaign and adapt to living with the virus.

“Readily available rapid tests will help to get our society back to operating normally by minimising the spread of the COVID19 virus,” said a release from the organisation, noting that testing for COVID-19 is expensive.

“To date, the testing ecosystem has been criticised for being expensive and inaccessible to a wide cross-section of Jamaicans. The average antigen test from a supplier ranges from US$5.50 to US$11 to the labs or healthcare system in Jamaica.”

“The consumer then pays approximately J$7,500 to be tested while in other countries with decentralised testing, antigen testing costs significantly lower, for example in Germany, where rapid tests are sold directly to the consumer for under US$1 each and India where they are approximately US$3.50 each,” said the PSOJ.

The organisation urged the authorities to expand the number of doctors doing antigen testing and ensure a seamless process for doctors to be accredited for point-of- care antigen testing.

“The existing testing environment is regulated by both the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) and the MOHW [Ministry of Health and Wellness]. The accreditation process is cumbersome as both JANAAC and MOHW overlap and the process requires extensive documentation, site visits and certification which is simply overkill for a basic point- of- care test which doctors routinely carry out for pregnancy, diabetes among others,” said the PSOJ.

The organisation said it is  calling for “any existing bottlenecks to be removed and that the data gathering, and verification process be streamlined to allow even more approved testing facilities,” adding that the MOHW should  approve more testing kits.

“Jamaica allows for use of four rapid antigen tests approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO). There are 34 rapid antigen tests that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which are currently not approved for use in Jamaica. Like the rest of the world, the Government should reconsider its policy position and allow for the use of all antigen test kits approved by both the WHO and FDA.  Expanding the options will provide least costly antigen tests,” said the PSOJ.

The organisation also called for the use of self-administered COVID-19 testing, adding that consideration must also be made to increase the COVID-19 test delivery channels through options such as on-site testing by non-accredited third parties.

“This availability of tests for both point-of-care and self-administered/home tests will allow for individuals, families and by extension communities to minimise the spread of the virus,” it added.

“Greater availability of tests and access to point- of-care tests by doctors will allow for regular testing and screening for COVID in the workplace which will only impact in minimising spread and lost productivity,” said the PSOJ. 

“The ecosystem must be improved to allow for the importation of a variety of tests at affordable price points, to be undertaken by more entities such as doctors, nurses, workplaces, and individuals. We need to shift the power in the hands of the people to complement efforts of the Government and private labs.” 

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