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DOH will not approve Marikina’s COVID-19 testing center even after millions have been spent on it

Efforts were already made to clear out the sixth floor of the City Health Office, but sadly it won’t do.

Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said that the Department of Health (DOH) disapproved the operation of the city’s COVID-19 testing center. A letter from the Office of the Secretary of DOH to Teodoro stated that the testing center should be in a different building.

In an interview with dzBB, Teodoro revealed all the new details regarding the testing center’s disapproval by the DOH.

“Hindi tayo inaprubahan, hindi tayo pinayagan ng Department of Health. Nakatanggap ako ng sulat galing sa Office of the Secretary ang sinasabi nila dapat daw kung meron kang testing facility o testing center ay merong nakahiwalay na gusali o building.”

Efforts were already made to clear out the sixth floor of the City Health Office, but sadly it won’t do.

“’Yung buong palapag na ‘yun na sixth floor ng ating city health office ay wala nang ibang opisina, binakante na namin at tanging ‘yung testing center na lang ang naroon.”

Everything is all set, but an approval will not be made unless the location of the testing center will be moved to another one which the DOH requires of the city.

“Maski naka set up na, kumpleto na tayo sa gamit, may mga trained personnel na tayo, sumunod naman tayo sa biohazard protocols na hinihingi nila doon sa safety measures, ang dinahilan, ang sinasabi nila nakatupad naman kami, nakasunod naman kami sa lahat ng parameter, criteria ng isang molecular laboratory testing center pero naging problema raw yung lokasyon ng pasilidad.”

The local government spent 2.7 million for the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine, and P3 million to P4 million for 3,000 testing kits. Teodoro is willing to give the equipment to the DOH just so more help can be provided to those who need it.

“Para mapakinabangan itong mga gamit, mga equipment, kung tatanggapin ng DOH, willing kami na ibigay sa kanila. Pati ‘yung mga test kits na aming nabili. Para pakinabangan po ng ating kababayan.

“Ang dami po natin kababayan na gusto malaman kung sila ay positive o negative lalo na po yung marginalized, yung mga walang kakayahan pumunta sa pribadong ospital o walang access sa mga testing center.”

Before the official disapproval, Teodoro claimed that the DOH was delaying the process, and did not even try to hide his frustration over it.

The Department of Health, along with the World Health Organization, and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine already did an assessment of the laboratory.

“Ang feeling ko we’re treated as an applicant for a license to operate. Sabi ko sa kanila they should not treat us as an applicant, kung di partner sana na local government kasi crisis situation, public health emergency.”

Since the virus is considered as a biosafety hazard,  the laboratory has to be accredited by the department before it conducts COVID-19 testing, according to Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo.

“Ang mungkahi natin is tulungan, bigyan ng technical assistance itong laboratory sa Marikina para magamit. Sa ngayon po talagang kailangan natin ng testing center dahil available na po ang testing kits dito.”

Teodoro emphasized the importance of the people to have the accessibility of getting tested, regardless of their financial status.

“Ang nangyayari ngayon, COVID-positive na, namatay na ‘yung pasyente hindi pa natetest eh. Kaya mahalaga yung testing para sa’min, yung access ng ordinaryong Pilipino hindi yung mga may kaya.”

Teodoro just can’t get over the fact that Filipinos are suffering due to certain protocols that need to be followed first for the advancement in solving the problems to happen.

Netizens also agreed with the mayor.

Even with the disapproval, the DOH says it is not against the operation of the testing center in Marikina. On Wednesday, DOH Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said that the agency will be supporting local government units (LGUs) that are looking to set up other testing facilities.

LGUs can set them up if they have the ‘capacity’, says Vergeire.

“Hindi po sa ayaw natin payagan. Gusto po natin linawin na bukas na bukas po tayo para magkaroon kung sino po ang may capacity na gumawa nito para matulungan ang gobyerno.”

The testing center in Marikina actually poses biosafety risks, that is why the approval has not gone through yet.

“Ang atin pong mga ginagawang proseso para matest ang COVID-19 sa isang laboratoryo is highly technical, it has biosafety issues and it has biosafety risks.”

All Marikina has to do is follow the rules and they’ll be given the go signal.

“Gusto lang po natin siguraduhin na maka-comply po ang ating mga laboratoryo kasama na po ang ating city government of Marikina sa ating mga pamantayan. Pagkatapos nono, maaari na po silang mag-operate kung makaka – comply na po sila,”

There are now 803 confirmed cases in the country, and 54 of them have succumbed to the deadly virus.

Written by JO-EST B. TAN

0917 159 6675

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