JJ Hospital says no orders on testing yet from Maharashtra government

Updated: Mar 18, 2020, 08:21 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Meanwhile, the new testing facility at KEM Hospital is expected to begin within the next couple of days. Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, said the new equipment would increase the capacity of Kasturba Hospital from testing 100 sample

People wear masks in the premises of Kasturba hospital, which is currently the only place in Mumbai that tests for Coronavirus
People wear masks in the premises of Kasturba hospital, which is currently the only place in Mumbai that tests for Coronavirus

While the number of people being tested for Coronavirus continues to grow and the state is in stage II of the epidemic, arrangements for setting up new testing facilities in the city seem to be lagging behind. Despite the announcement by health minister Rajesh Tope on Sunday, that two more testing centres will be opened in the city soon, an official at one of the institute's mentioned, JJ Hospital, said they had no intimation about this. An official at the other centre, Haffkine Institute, said their laboratory would be ready in a month.

The civic body has screened around 2.5 lakh people who returned after international travel at airports since January 18 and have been sorted under three categories depending on whether they displayed symptoms. More than 1,800 people have visited the Out Patient Department at Kasturba Hospital and over the past couple of months, more than 500 people have been admitted and tested there.

State health department officials said Haffkine and JJ Hospital would each be able to test 250 samples a day. But a senior administration official at JJ Hospital said, "We have not received directions from the state government about setting up a laboratory to test samples for COVID-19. Without that we cannot start preparations." Dr Pallavi Prabhakar Saple, dean of JJ Hospital confirmed that they had not received directions.

Dr Rajesh Deshmukh, director of Haffkine, said they had discussions about setting up kits for testing samples with NIV. "Currently, the laboratory is being upgraded based on NCDC (National Centre for Disease Control) norms. We have started work but it will take some time," said Dr Deshmukh. But contrary to Tope's announcement that 250 samples would be tested daily, Dr Deshmukh said the institute would be able to test around 80 samples a day.

Meanwhile, the new testing facility at KEM Hospital is expected to begin within the next couple of days. Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, said the new equipment would increase the capacity of Kasturba Hospital from testing 100 samples daily to 250. "We will test a sample at KEM on Wednesday which will be verified by the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune. After that we can test samples there. We will increase the capacity at Kasturba within the next two days and are planning to start testing at Sion hospital," said Kakani.

'State is in talks'
Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, Secretary of Medical Education, said the labs will take maximum four weeks to be functional. "We are in talks with Haffkine Institute, BJ Medical College and Grant Medical College (JJ Hospital) and are procuring the equipment. After it is installed at the laboratories, NIV will inspect the premises and certify them. We then need approval from the government of India before the labs can start testing samples," said Dr Mukherjee. He added that the state government will set up six other laboratories in Akola, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Dhule, Miraj and Solapur in another 2-3 weeks. "Currently Maharashtra tests around 550 samples in three laboratories. Within a month, the testing capacity will increase by around 1,000 in the state," he said.

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