Currently, the island of Mindanao only has one (1) coronavirus testing center, but on Thursday Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the DOH will be looking to add more.
Duque told DZMM that the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City is the only hospital in Mindanao that can test for COVID-19.
Duque said that the DOH is working on making Leve 3 hospitals more capable of treating the virus.
“Pinapakuha ko na existing capacity ‘yung level 3 hospitals kasi sila ‘yung may kakayahan magsagawa ng testing na katulad nito, live virus ito, kailangan ‘yung biosafety lab standard ay complied with kasi kung hindi baka magkaroon ng laboratory epidemic, nakakatakot.”
Several Filipino repatriates recently arrived from Malaysia and are currently quarantined on Sibakel Island in Basilan province. This became a major concern as far as the spreading of the virus and people getting tested since Malaysia has 1,796 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
There are already facilities expected to start soon.
“Kailangang mapalawig ang testing facility. Tanungin ko lang ang RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) kung mayroon na silang nagawang assessment, ano ‘yung pinakamalapit na lab na puwede na nilang ma-accredit sa lalong madaling panahon,”
Unfortunately, not all hospitals have PCR (Polymerase chain reaction), which is used for testing.
“‘Yung PCR machine kumplikadong makina ‘yan na siya ang taga-basa ng resulta kung positive o negative. Limang steps ‘yung process, hindi basta kung sino laboratoryo magsabing may PCR tayo dito.”
The DOH says they want to help Marikina City in conducting mass testing, but according to Duque, the agency couldn’t grant it a license just yet because the laboratory has not fully complied with the biosafety protocols. Another reason why they can’t grant it is that the laboratory is located in the city hall, which increases the risk of spreading the virus.
“Hindi naman namin magampanan sa ngayon na bigyan sila ng lisensiya dahil unang-una, nasa city hall yung kanilang laboratory. Pangalawa, ‘yung biosafety standard hindi naman pa nasusunod, tutulungan naman kung ano ang kakulangan pero hindi puwedeng dalin sa madalian ang ganitong laboratoryo dahil talagang highly-specialized at ‘yung safety standard dapat stringent at strict and implementation.”
Testing facilities nationwide are located in hospitals, which according to Duque is okay, but it is better for Marikina to just follow the standards of setting up these facilities. Marikina is looking to put their testing center at the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center, but the area has insufficient space.
“Hindi ko naman sinasabing hindi puwede (city hall), ‘yung risk andoon. Mas maganda talaga na ‘yung lab nakabukod at maganda rin nasa loob ng ospital.”
Duque said there are currently 6 decentralized testing centers in the country including RITM and SPMC in Davao City, the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu, the Baguio General Hospital in northern Luzon, the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, and soon at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.
The Lung Center is close to getting licensed, but that is only if they meet the requirements to operate. Duque said there are also four labs in private hospitals: two at St. Luke’s, the Makati Medical Center, and The Medical City.
“This week ‘yung Lung Center pinipilit ko kung konti lang ang deficiencies ay kanila nang gampanan ang mga puwang at palisensiyahan na. Tapos meron tayong apat na private hospitals St. Luke’s hospital dalawa, Makati Medical, the Medical City/”
In response to the DOH, Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said the city of Marikina will do whatever it takes to get its laboratory approved.
“Kung ito ang hinihingi ng DOH, gagawin namin ito. Gagawin natin ito dahil kailangan ng kababayan natin ito, lalo na ang mahihirap, ‘yung marginalized sector na walang access sa testing.”
On Thursday, Teodoro revealed more about why the lab wasn’t approved. In an interview with Super Radyo dzBB, Teodoro said that the DOH wants the testing facility in a separate building.
“Hindi tayo inaprubahan, hindi tayo pinayagan ng DOH… dapat daw kung meron kang testing facility ay [nasa] nakahiwalay na gusali,”
Marikina City has already made the effort to make the sixth floor of the City Health Office as the main facility.
“Tanging ‘yung testing center na lang ang naroon at merong dedicated, exclusive elevator papunta lamang do’n. Kung gusto raw po naming magkaroon ng testing center, magpatayo kami ng bagong building na paglalagyan ng testing center.”
The location is the only problem left for the license to be approved. Teodoro thinks that the agency doesn’t really care about the people,
“‘Pag ganito ang sagot ng DOH, parang hindi nila nakikita ‘yung pangangailangan at saka time is of the essence po ngayon e.
“Iniisip nga namin ngayon, para pakinabangan itong mga gamit o equipment, kung tatanggapin ng DOH ay willing kaming ibigay ito sa kanila pati ang aming mga test kit na nabili para pakinabangan ng ating kababayan dahil kailangang kailangan po ito e.”
Marikina has spent P2.7 million to procure a polymerase chain reaction machine and between P3 to P4 million for about 3,000 test kits.
Teodoro also mentioned that the DOH can handle the lab, but all the funding will be done by the local government.