The city government will finally start on Thursday the full operation of its modular testing laboratory for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) after getting approval from the Department of Health (DOH).
Dr. Ryan Aplicador, chief of the local government-run Dr. Jorge P. Royeca Hospital (DJPRH), confirmed on Wednesday that they already received the “license to operate (LTO)” the laboratory and conduct Covid-19 Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing.
The LTO was officially issued last Sept. 14 by DOH Health Facilities and Services Regulation Bureau director Nicolas Lutero III and valid until Dec. 31.
It came out a day after the DJPRH’s team of medical technologists passed the proficiency testing for detection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
Aplicador said they will start at least 25 tests daily using a machine with “smaller capacity,” with the results targeted to come out within the day.
He said the laboratory, which is at the back of the DJPRH compound, has another diagnostic machine with a “bigger capacity” that can eventually increase its daily output to 96.
The facility has at least 7,000 standby test kits and the local government has ready suppliers for them, he said.
“Our maximum goal is to run at 200 tests per day, (but) we need additional machines for that like an automated extractor,” Aplicador said in an interview.
The city government had commissioned a company accredited with the DOH and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to assemble the PHP15-million Covid-19 testing laboratory, which was delivered in the first week of June.
It initially targeted to operate the facility on the third week of June but was delayed due to the required adjustments on its setup.
Last week, the National Task Force against Covid-19 endorsed the immediate accreditation and operationalization of the facility.
Swab samples from suspected patients here are currently processed at the Southern Philippines Medical Center laboratory in Davao City.
The local government also used the laboratory of the St. Elizabeth Hospital, which is operated by the Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings Inc., but its testing capacity has been limited due to the lack of cartridges for its GeneXpert machine.
Aplicador reiterated that the testing laboratory will be a “game-changer” in the fight against Covid-19 in the city and the entire Region 12 (Soccsksargen), which is currently reeling from increasing cases of local transmission.
But, he pointed out that it is “not the cure” for the disease and residents should continue to strictly follow the necessary health protocols such as the wearing of face mask and face shield when going to public places, observance of safe physical distancing, practicing proper hygiene like regular handwashing, and staying home if possible.
“It will be a big help in identifying and isolating cases but it will not cure Covid-19,” he said.
As of Wednesday morning, the city’s confirmed Covid-19 cases already reached a total of 189, with eight deaths and 62 recoveries. (PNA)