The extremely needed and coveted Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) is now ready in Sikkim. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) certified Laboratory at STNM Hospital, Sochaygang, a COVID-19 dedicated hospital. 75% cost of construction and establishment of the VRDL was funded by ICMR, while 25% of it was borne by Alkem Laboratories Pvt. Ltd. through its CSR fund. The equipment and consumables were procured by ICMR for the laboratory through the National Institute of Pathology, Noida.
The VRDL was formally inaugurated by the Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang (Golay) today, in the presence of Cabinet Ministers, MLAs, MP Lok Sabha, senior officials of the State Government, senior doctors and medical staff of STNM Hospital. Following the inauguration, CM inspected the facility in detail where senior Doctors and Microbiologists briefed him about the Laboratory.
Thereafter, in his interaction with the media, CM stated that the completion and inauguration of the VRD Laboratory in a record time of 35 days amidst unprecedented challenges and constraints is a huge achievement of the State Government. The CM extended his gratitude to the entire medical fraternity in the State, and the ICMR, Government of India, for helping with the entire process, right from construction till its validation, saying that now with the establishment of the VRD Laboratory in STNM Hospital, Sikkim will no longer have to depend upon other states for COVID-19 and other viral tests. He also expressed his gratitude to all the frontline medical workers who have laboured throughout, putting in effort day and night.
The laboratory will now make Sikkim self-sufficient in testing, preventing any unnecessary delays in testing. The VRDL situated on the 9th floor of the hospital will have the capacity to conduct 90 tests per go. Each batch of 90 samples will take five hours to complete and deliver results. In the process, first RNA Extraction will take three and half-hours, followed by one and half hours of actual testing. One Microbiologist and two laboratory technicians will initially man the laboratory, thereafter; batches of lab technicians are to be trained to replace the present batch in the stipulated time frame.
The RNA Extraction Kit and all the required consumables to be used in the VRDL will have to be finally validated by the ICMR after which the laboratory will be fully functional. As informed by senior health officials, the laboratory should be in a position to start the process of testing from Monday, the 26th of May, 2020. Before, STNM Hospital had been conducting regular tests through the TrueNat machines available with the Hospital. Till date, out of 583 samples tested through the TrueNat Testing Machine, 459 samples have tested negative for COVID-19, while awaiting the results of the rest.