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SBI Foundation, Swasti set up Covid-19 testing lab in urban slums of Mumbai

Our Bureau, Mumbai
Wednesday, October 13, 2021, 17:30 Hrs  [IST]

SBI Foundation, CSR wing of State Bank of India, and Swasti, a public health non-profit organization, have set up a first of its kind Covid-19 community testing service for Shivaji Nagar and Govandi (M-East Ward) in Mumbai in order to increase access to healthcare for the most vulnerable.

The lab is equipped to test for Covid-19 through the RT-PCR method making it the first community-based testing lab to be accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) in India. Through this initiative, SBIF and Swasti aim to take healthcare care to the doorstep of people and will provide telephonic screening of Covid-19 to a large proportion of the vulnerable population through trusted community champions.

Marginalized communities in urban slums face a double burden of disease; the threat of Covid-19 and preventable complications from pre-existing conditions. Access to healthcare is poor in these communities due to several reasons such as distance, cost and time of travel, long wait times, lost wages, and Covid-19 associated stigma or perceived stigma by healthcare staff. They are also at higher risk of infectious diseases such as Covid-19 due to poor sanitation facilities and overcrowding which makes social distancing impossible.

This community testing program operates across the care continuum- from prevention of low-risk cases, support management of co-morbidities of medium risk cases to treatment, quarantine and follow up. The efforts will be buffered by anti-stigma initiatives to normalise Covid-19 testing and ensure early detection happens so that transmission can be curtailed efficiently.

Talking about the initiative, Manjula Kalyanasundaram, managing director, SBI Foundation said, “Inability to access timely testing leads to delayed Covid-19 diagnosis, which in turn causes increased transmission in the community resulting in poor health outcomes for the infected individual. In addition, with the increasing burden on public health facilities, routine healthcare has come to a standstill. Through this initiative, we aim to not only support the public health infrastructure but also strengthen it further while setting an example for other organisations to ensure access to health and safety for all in such difficult times.”

So far, the SBIF and Swasti have provided door-to-door surveillance to over 100,000 people, conducted rapid antigen testing for over 12,000 people and have ensured post-test counselling for every individual.

Talking about the expected outcomes, Piyasree Mukherjee, Director-Programs, Swasti said, “This initiative will ensure rapid response to Covid-19 for the vulnerable population of Govandi. The lab, currently handled by Doctors For You (DFY), is equipped to run RT-PCR tests and maintains the strict standards and quality control as prescribed by NABL. Community based testing facilities are not new, and have been successfully used across the globe, especially for HIV. Given the nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, such community-based labs will ensure universal access, a dream all of us public health practitioners work towards."


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