The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has written to 13 medical “institutions of eminence” across the country to act as “mentors” in the process of increasing testing for COVID-19 in states.
In a letter to directors of these institutions, ICMR director-general Dr Balram Bhargava stated that the move has been made after directions from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare “to increase capacity for COVID-19 testing in all government and private medical colleges of the country”. COVID-19 LIVE updates
The letter reads, “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 colleges in their catchment areas and facilitate the establishment of COVID-19 testing facilities in their respective states.
All these institutions will work in close coordination with their respective state governments.”
While six of these institutions are All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), most have the responsibility of mentoring medical colleges in multiple states — in one case as many as seven. For instance, the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, Shillong, will look at th whole Northeast sector: Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
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Similarly, PGIMER-Chandigarh is in charge of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and Uttarakhand. JIPMER, Puducherry, will look at Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Puducherry, while SCTIMST, Thiruvananthapuram, is in charge of Kerala, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep. AIIMS-Delhi has charge of Delhi and Bihar, while AIIMS-Jodhpur has Rajasthan and Gujarat. Armed Forces Medical College Pune will look at two cities – Mumbai and Pune – while the increase in testing in the rest of Maharashtra, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu will be mentored by AIIMS, Nagpur.
IMHANS, Bengaluru, is in charge of Karnataka, while King George Medical University, Lucknow, has charge of Uttar Pradesh. AIIMS-Bhopal and Raipur will oversee Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, respectively; AIIMS-Bhubaneswar looks at Odisha and West Bengal.
The move comes after the Union ministry has been told by state representatives for greater clarity and streamlining of processes, including the intricacies of expanding testing. It is learnt that in several meetings, state leaders and officials have conveyed the need for more clarity on expanded testing, and the steps that should be taken in this regard, which has prompted ICMR to rope in these medical institutions across the country.
The letter by Bhargava to directors of these institutions come with terms of reference, “detailed guidance on requirements for infrastructure and consumables for real time RT-PCR laboratory” and a suggestive list of good quality consumables.
The need for greater clarity from the Union government on the directions and help being given to states has been repeatedly raised, it is learnt, including at a meeting of the Union Health Minister with state Health ministers on April 10. An official from a state, who was privy to the details, said, “States raised the issue that they need to know what is coming and when from the Centre, so they can make arrangements around that. Only if there is clarity from the centre, can states really push ahead.”
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