Pharmaceutical companies based in Ireland could soon be making the materials needed for processing Covid-19 tests, the head of IDA Ireland has revealed.
There is such a shortage of a reagent we need that it has led to delays in getting results for tests here and around the world.
As a result, the HSE has now even started outsourcing test analysis to a foreign laboratory.
But Martin Shanahan, head of the foreign inward investment agency IDA Ireland, says pharma firms based here are in negotiations with the State to start making the reagents we are short of here.
He was asked by RTE if they are already making it and exporting it out of the country and replied: “I’m not sure about the extent to which they are manufacturing it.”
Asked if he knew if they could supply us with the amount of reagent we need, he said: “That is my expectation.”
He could not, however, say when they would start supplying us.
Later, he told the Irish Examiner: “Global companies, with a presence in Ireland, produce reagent or have a capacity to do so within their global supply chains.
“Those reagents are not produced currently in Ireland.
“The increase in supply that the HSE is currently negotiating with these companies on will come from their global supply chains rather than from their Irish operations.
“IDA Ireland is aware of an industry led initiative that is currently underway to explore the possibility of producing reagent in Ireland.”
Meanwhile leading GPs have questioned the merits of outsourcing Covid-19 testing to a foreign laboratory due to shortages of a vital reagent needed to .
Outsourcing testing hasn’t served the country well in the past, said Dublin GP Maitiu O Tuathail.
And MyCorkGP.ie partner Dr Nick Flynn has questioned why the health service can’t just import supplies of the re-agent we need to carry out more tests.
They were speaking after HSE boss Paul Reid announced that the agency has completed a deal to have Covid-19 testing carried out in a laboratory in Europe.
In discussing the agency’s three-pronged approach to tackling the backlog of testing, he told RTE one was “transferring some of the queue” to a “reputable organisation in Europe.”
That will help to address the queue, he said.
Mr Reid pointed out that there has been a 1,000 per cent growth worldwide in the demand for the reagent used in testing.
This is a world wide pandemic with other countries also facing “choke points” in relation to test kits and PPE.
Mr Reid said he wants to get to the stage where there are between 10,000 to 15,000 tests being carried out per day, but that will not happen in the next week, he warned.
At present 2,600 tests per day are being carried out.
“We will significantly ramp up, but it will take us longer to reach 15,000. We will be working around the clock to reassure the public.”
Using laboratories abroad to carry out testing will be significant, he said.
Dr Flynn said: “I think in the current climate, testing needs to be done in whatever is the quickest and most efficient way.
“But I can’t see how a foreign lab is going to process Irish tests while their own country is going to be screaming out for the tests to be processed as well.
“Also, I don’t see why the HSE doesn’t just import the testing agent.”
He says he is having a mixed experience with the testing process.
Some of his patients have been waiting at least three days to get tested.
On the other hand, one of his patients - who is a contact of a known Covid-19 case - was tested within one day but they are into their fourth day of waiting for their results.
Dr Maitiu O Tuathail said: “We have incredibly skilled pathologists and doctors in Ireland.
“They are among the best and most highly skilled in the world.
“If it was in my own preference, I would want to get my testing done here.
“I don’t want to bring CervicalCheck into it.”
He said any tests he has asked for this week have been handled quickly.
However, he says that any of his patients who were tested in the past two weeks are waiting up to ten days or more to get a result.
“The system has undoubtedly improved,” he said. “However there is still a significant backlog.”