Coronavirus on Smart Talk Monday: Opioid overdoses increase and standardized diagnostic testing

The Monroe County Coroner recently called on Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, MD, to resign over the what he says is the disparity between the Covid-19 deaths reported by the state and the number the deaths coroners are seeing.

As deaths and COVID-19 infections began to rise in the Commonwealth earlier this year, area coroners noticed another disturbing trend; Opioid overdose deaths were increasing, too.

Officials in both York and Cumberland Counties say that the spike in overdose deaths is certainly connected to the coronavirus outbreak. Some people needing care for dependency may be avoiding treatment centers because of fears of catching the virus. Also, because this population is often more impacted by loss of income, homelessness and social isolation, they may be more susceptible to substance abuse.

Appearing on Smart Talk on Monday are York County Coroner Pam Gay, along with Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall to share their observations.

When a person visits a doctor or medical facility with an ailment, there are different diagnostic tools that go into making a medical assessment, often involving bloodwork. It is frequently said that laboratory screenings account for more than 70% of medical decisions, so access to screening tools is imperative.

But in many places around the world lab screening isn’t available, affordable, or standardized.

A local doctor wanted to change that by advocating for a screening tool called ‘essential diagnostics.’ The list of essential diagnostic tests offers clinicians a directory of the most necessary tests to help make a diagnosis.

Dr. Mustafa Barbhuiya, Ph.D., is a clinical chemistry fellow at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and he established a non-profit foundation called the ‘Foundation for Advancement of Essential Diagnostics.’ The foundation promotes essential diagnostics across the globe, especially in poor areas with limited resources.

Barbhuiya says that during the coronavirus pandemic it is also important to discuss the availability and affordability of antibody testing. He joins Smart Talk Monday.


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