DOH checking if 49 more labs can do COVID-19 tests

By April 27, 2020 No Comments

MANILA, Philippines — Amid calls for the government to speed up the release of test results for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, the Department of Health (DOH) said it was processing the accreditation of at least 49 laboratories that have expressed willingness to become extension facilities for testing.

Releasing a list on Tuesday, the DOH said five laboratories were already on the third stage of the accreditation process. This means that their respective lab personnel are now undergoing a three-day training program at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the country’s main referral facility for Covid-19 cases.

The five labs are of the Western Visayas Medical Center, Bicol Public Health Laboratory, Victoriano Luna Hospital, St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City and St. Luke’s Medical Center Quezon City.

The Lung Center of the Philippines is currently completing its proficiency testing, the last stage before it can fully operate as an extension laboratory. At this stage, it can already “accept COVID-19 samples, but will need to test five positive samples as confirmed by RITM before proceeding to a full-scale implementation,” the DOH said.

As of this writing, the DOH has already tested 3,303 persons for the coronavirus. Data, however, showed that of the 78 who have died of Covid-19 as of Monday, 44 succumbed to the disease before the release of the test results confirming they had contracted the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the respiratory illness.

Akbayan Youth chair Dr. RJ Naguit said the government should be fast-tracking the release of test results, adding it was already bad enough that patients are dying without any their loved ones beside them.

“It’s the worst way to go; never knowing what they’re suffering from, while VIP politicians can get tested without symptoms,” Naguit said.

“We call on RITM and all the subnational testing centers to ensure that patients with positive results are informed immediately regarding their status. We need not choose between heightened urgency and the reliability of our test results. The sooner we have data, the sooner we will be in a better foothold in having informed and appropriate interventions to address the pandemic,” he added.

Earlier, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said a laboratory must first be certified to be compliant with biosafety standards before it could be accredited, since it would be handling live viruses. Failure to meet the standards puts health workers and the community at risk, she said.

Apart from RITM, there are so far five other laboratories authorized to test for COVID-19. These are Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center; San Lazaro Hospital and the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health in Metro Manila; Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu; and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao.

RITM can process up to a thousand tests a day, while the five others can process a total of 200 samples daily.

Thirteen facilities are now in the validation stage, which means that teams from the DOH, RITM and the World Health Organization are conducting an on-site visit to check the correctness of their self-assessment.

“The team will inform the laboratory of its deficiencies, and the laboratory will have to comply with the recommendations before proceeding to the next stage,” the DOH said.

Thirty facilities are currently undertaking self-assessment, the first stage of the accreditation process. Among the criteria for their evaluation are: access to the laboratory, its design and use of safety equipment, administrative control and management, records and documentation, and personnel practices and training.


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TAGS: Coronavirus Pandemic, COVID-19, COVID-19 testing centers
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