Testing times for the test companies
Editor's note: Nucleic acid testing companies have been widely criticized recently for profiteering and faking test results in China. Does the supervision of these companies need to be strengthened? How to regulate the testing sector? Two experts share their views with China Daily. Excerpts follow:
Strict supervision over testing companies a must
Recently, nucleic acid testing companies have faced an unprecedented crisis of trust. There is even a saying that "the COVID-19 pandemic will only stop only when the nucleic acid testing stops", as it is widely believed that the testing companies are "the umbrella seller who has the power to call for rain".
In the past three years tremendous efforts have been made to fight the novel coronavirus. However, falsification of nucleic acid test results by a few testing companies is threatening to undo all the efforts to control the epidemic over that time. In response to the doubts of the public, it is necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis of the nucleic acid testing system, and strengthen supervision over the companies doing nucleic acid testing.
Generally nucleic acid tests in China are administered by designated medical institutions such as hospitals, designated agencies entrusted by the health authorities to carry out tests and also third-party entities.
Among them, the second category is similar to the third, as both involve public-private cooperation. But the difference between the two is that the former is in the name of the health administration departments, while the latter is purely market behavior of private entities.
As the demand for tests has increased in past months, more testing has been carried out by private companies to alleviate the pressure on public health institutions. This has enabled some companies to take risks to falsify results in order to make a fat profit.
But nucleic acid testing should be non-market activity aimed at fulfilling the public administrative task of preventing the spread of the virus. To this end, the testing companies must be supervised in the strictest way. The cost and benefit of testing must be duly evaluated and the cost controlled through administrative agreement. Besides the whole testing process should be managed and supervised by health administrators through sampling inspection or other methods.
The accountability for testing should be assumed entirely by the health departments, instead of the testing companies. Only by strengthening the duties of health administrators can supervision of the testing be effectively enhanced.
Action should be taken against any testing companies found to be trying to profiteer.
Li Zhongxia, a professor with at the Law School, Renmin University of China