The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has asked the Union government to expedite accreditation of Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) centres of private medical colleges and set up a dedicated portal for granting approvals to facilitate COVID-19 testing facilities at these centres.
The HC also asked the authorities to expedite the setting up of labs in the remote districts of Gondia, Yavatmal, Chandrapur and Gadchiroli after the government submitted that the facilities would be functional only by May 20.
A single judge bench of Justice Nitin W Sambre passed the order on April 23 while hearing public interest pleas filed by Subhash Zanwar and C H Sharma seeking various reliefs and facilities in the wake of the pandemic. The court said, “It is expected that testing facilities can be made operational at private medical colleges, which are armed with proper academic staff, provided such staff is given training of testing and if contingency arises, samples even can be allocated to these private colleges.”
The court made suggestions after amicus curie advocate Anup J Gilda pressed for the need to initiate VRDL facilities on a large scale. Gilda said the only difficulty in making them operational at private medical colleges was non-grant of accreditation by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) due to its stringent norms.
It is expected that the Centre will step in expedite approval process and may consider setting up of a devoted portal for that purpose, the court said. Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) A U Aurangabadkar submitted that if such pendency of proposal is brought to notice, appropriate steps will be taken to expedite it.
The HC on March 23 had asked the state to take necessary steps for the creation of laboratories for COVID-19 testing within two weeks at Yavatmal, Gadchiroli, Gondia and Chandrapur districts. On April 20, the court had asked the ICMR and the state to clarify when the procedure of establishing labs at hospitals in remote districts would be completed.
On Thursday, the authorities submitted that labs can be made operational at Yavatmal and Chandrapur only by May 20 due to want of infrastructure. The court was told that equipment would be made available by Haffkine Institute, which procured the same from Singapore, but that the shipment was taking time.
The court then directed the health authorities to take appropriate steps for expeditious delivery of Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction Machines (RT-PCR) required at VRDL facilities in remote districts.
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