Laboratories get insufficient materials for coronavirus testing

Laboratories for medical microbiology say that they are not supplied with enough materials to meet the increasing demand for coronavirus testing. Sometimes too few test kits are supplied, sometimes too few reagents or test sticks. Sometimes these are materials for one test system, next time they are materials for another system. Each system includes certain materials that cannot be used in other devices.

Since the end of March, the National Diagnostic Chain Coordination Team (LCDK) centrally regulates the distribution of laboratory supplies. Laboratories can in fact no longer purchase materials themselves, because the LCDK has concluded contracts with the major suppliers. The labs order from their suppliers, but they only deliver after coordination with the LCDK, which determines how much may be delivered.

Laboratories that were mainly dependent on one supplier often purchased test systems of other brands in order to limit the risk of shortages of the necessary materials.

The laboratories that were mainly dependent on one supplier often purchased test systems of other brands in order to limit the risk of shortages of the necessary materials

No view of widening

“For certain obsolete systems there are unlimited items available”, says Anton Buiting, physician-microbiologist at the Elisabeth Tweesteden Ziekenhuis in Tilburg and chairman of the Association of Medical Microbiological Laboratories (VMML)

“The Amphia Hospital in Breda has therefore restarted such an old system. But it can only handle 200 tests a day and four people are working on it. That doesn’t make you happy.”

Arts microbiologist Jan Kluytmans from Microvida Laboratory, which works for the hospitals in West-Brabant and Zeeland, says that the capacity of his lab is becoming tight. “And there is no concrete prospect of expansion,” he says.

“There is a nationwide lack of reagents. We’re currently getting supplies for 500 tests a day, but we’re doing 1,000. So we’re collecting on our own stock.”

Materials on ration

The same goes for other laboratories, says Buiting. “In my own lab in Tilburg we don’t have any problems yet, because we have five different systems running. For two of them, the materials have been rationed from national procurement, but we can still deal with that with the three other systems. Fortunately, they take turns falling out due to those shortages.”

“We have to give up what we need and then we get a certain amount delivered. But you don’t always get what you order delivered, so our own stocks are getting smaller and smaller” As a result, Certe is drawing on the stock built up at the request of the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport for the autumn when it is expected that a lot more tests will have to be carried out than is currently the case

International problem

“There are simply shortages at the suppliers, so the LCDK has nothing to distribute. Of course, actions are taken to see if there are alternative suppliers or products.”

Shortages of test materials are not a typical Dutch problem. “I hear from colleagues in Switzerland, France, Greece, Italy and Germany that they have similar problems,” says Alex Friedrich, doctor-microbiologist at the UMCG.

“Only the megalabs like you have in Germany seem to escape this. Probably because they are part of international groups that can move their stocks and have larger networks.”

German company

The company is today connected to the computer system used for the coronavirus tests, because it will perform coronavirus tests on samples taken by the GGD Amsterdam Amstelland.

At the request of VWS, the company will perform coronavirus tests on samples taken by the GGD Amsterdam Amstelland