Senator Win Gatchalian is appalled over what he calls a sluggish COVID-19 testing capacity of the Department of Health (DOH). The senator recently found out that the DOH has yet to accredit any hospital to carry out COVID-19 testing even after pronouncements made by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the newly delivered test kits from South Korea and China are now available for commercial use. He pointed out that even if more testing kits become available, these kits cannot be fully utilized if the DOH would not capacitate and accredit hospitals to use them.
Gatchalian is urging the DOH to fast-track accrediting the hospitals for COVID-19 testing to boost the country’s testing capacity and test more people at risk.
“Papaano natin mabibigyan ng agarang tulong medikal ang mga taong nanganganib ang kalusugan dahil sa COVID-19 at mapigilan ang mabilis na pagkalat nito kung hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa pinapahintulutan ng DOH ang mga ospital na gamitin ang mga bagong testing kits,” said Gatchalian.
Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro has expressed frustration that up to this time the city cannot use its Molecular Laboratory and procure test kits as the DOH has yet to certify the local laboratory. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases said that all LGUs must first coordinate with the DOH before acquiring, purchasing or utilizing testing kits within their respective territorial jurisdictions.
The DOH had said that in addition to the current 1,300 available kits and the two thousand fifty (2,050) recently delivered from China and South Korea, it is anticipating additional 120,500 units from different countries, such as China, Korea, and Brunei.
The UP National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Philippine Genome Center, and manufacturer The Manila HealthTek Inc. are working to meet the government’s order of 26,000 testing kits developed by the UP NIH. At less than P1,500 each, these kits are significantly cheaper and cuts waiting time for results from 24 hours to less than two hours.
To date, four subnational laboratories have been prepared to process COVID-19 testing: San Lazaro Hospital, and Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center for Luzon, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center for Visayas, and Southern Philippines Medical Center for Mindanao.
Five private hospitals are being eyed by the DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO) as possible extension laboratories. These are St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City, Makati Medical Center, The Medical City, St. Luke’s Medical Center-Quezon City, and Chinese General Hospital.
Three government hospitals, on the other hand, are having final arrangements to become COVID-19 referral hospitals or those that can admit patients who contracted the virus. These are the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, the Jose M. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City, and the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City. The University of the Philippines – National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) will also augment government capacity for testing.