In the wake of twin fire incidents at Covid health centres in the country, the health department is set to review fire safety infrastructure in all health facilities in Darjeeling district. The fire in Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh and Navarangpura in Gujarat killed around 20 patients.
There are two dedicated hospitals for Covid-19 patients in the Plains of Darjeeling district, while there is another designated hospital at Triveni in Kalimpong district in the Hills. The North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) and other government- run hospitals are, meanwhile, treating patients with Covid-like symptoms.
“There will be a comprehensive review of the fire safety infrastructure in all the health facilities soon. The safety of the patients is paramount to us,” said Darjeeling district chief medical officer of health, Dr Pralay Acharya.
Dr Acharya said the electrical wing of the PWD and the West Bengal fire and emergency services will be involved in the plans.
Health department officials said the installation of fire safety systems was not enough. “The condition of fire extinguishers, whether regular inspections and maintenance are made, and how much the staff and the employees are trained, will all be looked into,” he added.
It may be recalled that a patient had died when a ventilator caught fire in the critical care unit of the NBMCH on 27 September last year, and the incident had prompted the authorities to revamp the electrical infrastructure by engaging the electrical department of the PWD there.
VRDL tests more than one lakh samples
The Viral Research & Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) has become the first laboratory in the state to have crossed the one-lakh mark in terms of samples being tested.
Principal examiner of the VRDL and head of the microbiology department at the NBMCH, Prof Arunava Sarkar, said the tests had crossed the one-lakh mark. Sources said that the laboratory had tested 105000 samples until Sunday. Officials had said that the VRDL had tested 50,000 samples in just 84 days in June.
The VRDL, which has been functional since 29 March, is at the top of testing facilities in the state, followed by the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGME&R) and the SSKM hospital in Kolkata.
The laboratory is equipped with two real-time polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR), CBNAAT, TrueNAT, and auto RNA extractor machines.
Prof Sarkar said the testing capacity of the laboratory had been increased. The rapid antigen tests have also been started, along with other government-run facilities. “The VRDL receives samples from Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar districts. The number of swab samples is around 2,000 on an average daily. Efforts are being made to test most of the samples in a single day,” sources said. They added that the tests are being conducted in three shifts in a day.
The laboratory is enabled to perform continuous monitoring of existing as well as new virus strains, while tests for acute encephalitis syndrome and tests under the National Hepatitis Control Programme can also be conducted there, it is learnt.
A faculty and in-charge of the Covid-19 laboratory, Dr Santanu Hazra, attributed the VRDL feat to the good team effort there.
“Technicians and molecular biologists have put in their tireless efforts to conduct high-quality and maximum tests with perfection in a short span of time,” he said.
The VRDL has two research scientists–both medical and non-medical–a research assistant and two technicians. There are 15 technicians of the microbiology department and four molecular biologists. Meanwhile, a proposal of the microbiology department to carry out studies on coronavirus strains by sub-typing of the positive samples has been pending there.