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Covid-19 test ache for north Bengal hospitals

Govt-run medical colleges and hospitals lacks facilities to test samples of suspected Covid-19 patients
A hawker counts his unsold items at a deserted platform of Sealdah Railway Station, in the wake of coronavirus pandemic in Calcutta, Saturday, March 21, 2020.

TT Bureau   |   Siliguri   |   Published 25.03.20, 08:57 PM

Senior health officials posted in north Bengal districts are spending sleepless nights as road, rail and air connectivity with Calcutta has snapped, which means they cannot send samples of suspected coronavirus patients to Calcutta for tests.

Multiple sources in the state health department said government-run medical colleges and hospitals in north lacked facilities where tests on swab samples of suspected Covid-19 patients could be conducted.

“If any sample has to be tested, it has to be sent to the National Institute of Cholera & Enteric Diseases (NICED) in Calcutta,” said a source. “But now that there is no connectivity, we are feeling helpless,” the source added.

Over 200 test kits reached Siliguri’s North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, the largest government-run referral hospital in the region, on Wednesday. The hospital, however, would require around 48 hours to start the coronavirus testing as the process involves a lot of preparations, a source said.

“We are fortunate that not a single patient has been tested positive for Covid-19 in north Bengal so far. But at the same time, we are concerned that right from Malda to Cooch Behar, there is not a single facility where tests for coronavirus can be conducted. We are keeping fingers crossed and hope the testing will commence at the NBMCH soon,” said a senior doctor in Jalpaiguri.

Amit Dan, the superintendent of the Malda Medical College and Hospital, said the facility was planning to send to Calcutta swab samples of one of the five patients who were in the isolation ward of the hospital.

“The test cannot be conducted anywhere in north Bengal and so, we are planning to send the samples to the NICED in Calcutta. We are aware that transport facilities are not available and are trying to send the sample through a designated courier of the health department,” said Dan.

In total, around 24 suspected coronavirus patients are in isolation at the medical colleges and government hospitals in north Bengal. Around 3,000 people are in home quarantine also in the region.

Some health department officials working in districts like Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri said they were also dependent on the NICED. “We have information that test kits have reached the NBMCH. We plan to send the swab samples of two patients there on Thursday,” said Sumit Ganguly, the CMOH of Cooch Behar.

Ramendranath Pramanik, the CMOH of Jalpaiguri, said seven patients were in isolation in the district. “We are waiting for the testing facility to start at the NBMCH,” he said.

A senior doctor posted in Raiganj pointed out that it was important that the testing facility started at the NBMCH. “Otherwise, it would be a cumbersome task to send the samples to Calcutta.”

“Also, any delay can affect the treatment of patients,” he added.

At the NBMCH, the Covid-19 tests would be conducted at the Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory on the premises, said sources.

“We have received the kits required to carry out necessary tests for the detection of coronavirus infection. We hope the tests can be started in a few days,” said Kaushik Samajdar, the NBMCH superintendent. 

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