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April 2, 2020

KMU starts conducting 300 corona tests per day

Peshawar

April 2, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Medical University (KMU) has started conducting 300 tests of coronavirus patients per day and has cleared the backlog, sources in the university said.

Also, KMU, the lone public sector medical university in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is set to upgrade its existing capacity by installing another state-of-the-art equipment for its Public Health Reference Laboratory (PHRL).

After doing so, it would become Pakistan’s leading laboratory to conduct 700 tests per day.

Senior government officials, however, told The News that Chief Minister Mahmood Khan wanted 3,000 tests of the coronavirus per day in the province.

The KMU has the best trained and qualified faculty but the laboratory was established for research purposes only.

KMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Arshad Javaid, also a foreign qualified pulmonologist, had floated an idea a couple of months ago to set up a centre of their lab in the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) for the benefit of patients and training of their faculty.

The patients would no longer need to be paying to private laboratories. However, the idea could not be materialised.

The KMU lab was not designed for such a large scale investigations, but it managed to cope with the emerging situation during early days of coronavirus pandemic in KP.

Initially when the outbreak occurred, swab of the patients used to be sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad.

It would take time and resources.

According to sources, the KP government and particularly Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz took interest in initiating coronavirus investigations in the province. He came to know about the well-equipped laboratory and qualified faculty in KMU and personally went there.

The chief secretary was informed about capacity, staff and its requirements, particularly funds needed for kits.

“And I am happy to tell you that the chief secretary took personal interest and arranged Rs100 million to the university within three days. It enabled the university to procure kits and enhance lab capacity,” said an official of KMU.

When reached, Prof Arshad Javaid confirmed to The News these developments and said they had finished the investigations of all samples sent to them.“And there is no backlog anymore. No investigation is pending with us,” he said.

Initially when the government decided to conduct COVID-19 investigations in KMU, its laboratory had the capacity of 40 investigations per day.

It was an unexpected challenge for the KMU when dozens of people got infected from a single person in Manga village of Mardan district and all the investigations were sent to the university’s lab in Peshawar.

With the funds provided by the provincial government, the KMU lab has now become KP’s top laboratory by conducting 300 investigations daily.

According to sources, the KMU administration has acquired another latest machine supposed to be installed soon in a few days.

“And once the new machine is installed, it would enhance its exciting capacity from 500 to 700 daily,” said the official.

For its one lab, the university has to import kits from China. For the two labs, the KP government is paying. A team of experts from NIH recently visited the KMU lab and reportedly got impressed by a large number of qualified people working in KMU and professionally conducing investigations of the coronavirus patients.

Also, the KP government in order to increase the number of investigations has decided to involve some private laboratories of well repute in the province in the investigation process of COVID-19 patients.

The government has approved the laboratories in two private hospitals in Peshawar- Rahman Medical Institute (RMI) and Northwest General Hospital and Research Centre Peshawar.

The final decision is yet to be taken. The government has also chosen one lab in Swat and Abbottabad, but these not been approved yet.

Sources told The News that there was another ‘state-of-the-art laboratory’ with trained staff in the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (AWUK), which can also be utilised in investigation of coronavirus pandemic.“In Mardan alone, there are two well-equipped laboratories which can be utilised during this crisis, one is in Abdul Wali Khan University and the other one in the Bacha Khan Medical College Mardan,” said an official in the university in Mardan.