Image Source: NBMCH website

The Health and Family Welfare Department in the regular health bulletin by Dr. Pempa Tshering Bhutia, DG cum Secretary of the department, bestowed an array of information to the Sikkimese public, one of the more important ones being North Bengal Medical College’s (NBMC’s) refusal to accept the test samples from Sikkim

Admitted patients on suspicion and confirmation of COVID-19 at STNM, in which the sole positive patient was informed to be in a stable and healthy condition and that the symptoms had gone down. Additionally, in suspicion and due to developments of symptoms, 2 persons from Namchi, 1 from Sumbuk, and 1 from Janta Bhawan, were brought to the hospital. After the TrueNAT tests came negative, the patients are to be returned to facility quarantine after their symptoms went down.

Dr. Bhutia also informed in a problem in reporting, wherein a total of 95 samples were pending for the day in RT-PCR tests in which a cumulative total of 1495 samples were tested, of which results of 759 have been received and 736 are pending. Similarly, TrueNAT tests are being conducted daily at STNM, and a total of 114 samples were tested today, of which a cumulative total of 1131 have been tested of which 1042 have been reported negative and reports of 89 samples were pending

On the topic of 95 samples sent to NBMC, which the establishment denied testing, have been brought back to the soon-to-operate Virus Research and Diagnostics Lab (VRDL) at STNM. Dr. Bhutia also informed that the department is following up to NBMC case, also inciting pressure from Government of India to urge NBMC for quicker reports.

The real reason for the denial of testing is because of too many backlogs at the testing centre. It was informed that NBMC is currently clearing backlogs of May 19th and 20th and Sikkim’s pending results are from May 23rd to 26th. The department and state government are putting pressure so that all the tests, which are being sent from the quarantine facilities are done quicker so people can be sent to home quarantine as soon as possible, informs the doctor.

Sikkim VRDL is expected to run from May 30th since the viral lab has already passed screening tests and the personnel have gotten login ID and passwords. The only hiatus is the pending confirmatory tests and arrival of RNA extractor along with a few pieces of equipment that are yet to reach from Kolkata. According to the bulletin, with the help of the Tourism Department, the pending equipment will arrive Rangpo on May 29th after which hopefully the remaining samples brought back to Sikkim can be tested. The remaining samples have been kept at the cryogenic preservation in the hospital itself, which is a freezer operating below -80 degrees.

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