Coronavirus | 14 Centres of Excellence to mentor medical colleges to expand testing capabilities

The mentor institutes will constitute a core team of Director, microbiologists, other faculty, administrators and other relevant staff to conduct site assessments and mentor the allocated government and private medical colleges for setting up COVID-19 diagnostic facilities.

Seeking to expeditiously expand COVID-19 testing facilities, the government has identified 14 Centres of Excellence such as PGIMER in Chandigarh, AIIMS, New Delhi, and NIMHANS in Bangalore to mentor all government and private medical colleges in their catchment areas to create state-of-art molecular virology setups.

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In the wake of spurt in cases of coronavirus in India, the ICMR has taken into account the need to expeditiously expand COVID-19 testing facilities in all parts of the country and has initiated a proactive search of potential laboratories which could be enabled for coronavirus testing, a senior official said. ICMR has already invited applications from all government and private medical colleges for establishing COVID-19 testing facilities.

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“As per directives of Union Ministers of Home and Health, under a core team of Director, AIIMS, Delhi, and Director and Director General of ICMR, a total of 14 Centres of Excellence have been designated. These Centres have been delegated a responsibility of mentoring all government and private medical colleges in their catchment area and eventually create state-of-art molecular virology setups,” the statement from ICMR said.

Evenly distributing responsibility

In a letter to directors of the 14 designated institutes, ICMR Director General Dr. Balram Bhargava said, “This work will involve significant due diligence, interaction with various medical colleges, training and handholding. Therefore, it has been decided to distribute the responsibility evenly across various institutions of eminence all across the country. These institutions are expected to serve as mentors of the medical college in their allotted area and facilitate the establishment of COVID-19 testing facilities in respective States.”

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These mentor institutes will constitute a core team of Director, microbiologists, other faculty, administrators and other relevant staff to conduct site assessments and mentor the allocated government and private medical colleges for setting up COVID-19 diagnostic facility. They will also conduct a comprehensive review of medical colleges to assess the feasibility of setting up a real-time RT-PCR testing facility for COVID-19 as per requirements laid down by ICMR and prepare a comprehensive list of available and deficit infrastructure, space, staff, expertise, equipments and consumables at each of the designated medical colleges and submit it to the respective State governments for fulfilment of necessary gaps.

They will also maintain a daily follow-up of all the allocated Institutions to monitor progress of work in-terms of setting up a COVID-19 diagnostic facility, conduct onsite/offsite trainings of all designated staff of the proposed 19 testing facility on aspects like appropriate laboratory biosafety and biosecurity procedures, respiratory sample collection and processing, RNA extraction and setting up of real-time RT-PCR experiment and appropriate disinfection and decontamination of laboratory spaces among others.

Proper geographic distribution

They will also ensure expansion of COVID-19 testing facilities as per geographic distribution. The 14 Centres of Excellence include Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, which will mentor medical colleges in Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and Uttarakhand, AIIMS, Delhi, to handhold medical colleges in Delhi and Bihar, Armed Force Medical College in Pune to mentor medical colleges in Mumbai and Pune, AIIMS Jodhpur will mentor medical colleges in Rajasthan and Gujarat and National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru will handhold colleges in Karnataka.

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The death toll due to the novel coronavirus pandemic rose to 308 on Monday after 35 new fatalities were reported, while the number of cases climbed to 9,152, according to the Union Health Ministry. However, a PTI tally of figures reported by various States as on Sunday showed at least 327 deaths. There has been a lag in the Union Health Ministry figures compared to the number of cases announced by different States, which officials attribute to procedural delays in assigning cases to individual States.

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