Region 12 asks Duterte to set up COVID-19 test center in MSU GenSan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 21 March) — Officials of this city and the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani have appealed to the national government to consider putting up a testing center here for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the wake of the increasing number of suspected cases in the area.

South Cotabato first district Rep. Shirlyn Bañas-Nograles made the request in a letter submitted on Friday to President Rodrigo Duterte, Health Secretaryh Francisco Duque and Senator Christopher Lawrence Go.

It was supported by South Cotabato second district Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez and Sarangani lone district Rep. Rogelio Pacquiao.

Nograles pushed for the designation of the city, which is part of South Cotabato’s first legislative district, as host of one of the Covid-19 testing centers in southern Mindanao and especially for Region 12 or Soccsksargen.

She said the proposed testing center can be established at the Mindanao State University (MSU)-General Santos campus, which is equipped with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine and has a microbiology laboratory with biosafety level 2 cabinet.

Photo courtesy of MSU GenSan FB page

“We are requesting that the DOH makes the necessary evaluation for the feasibility of the testing center,” she said.

In a separate letter signed by the three officials addressed to DOH-Region 12 director, Dr. Aristides Tan, they cited that MSU has “expressed willingness to allow the use of its facilities in order to help in fighting the spread of COVID-19.”

They urged the agency to assess the proposal “the soonest possible time” and if found viable, provide the necessary assistance to make it fully operational.

Nograles, who initiated the move based on requests from concerned stakeholders, said the presence of a testing center in the city will facilitate the early detection of possible Covid-19 cases and allow local health personnel immediately contain its spread.

She said the DOH has assigned the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City as the first testing center for COVID-19 in Mindanao but was also “studying the possibility of establishing more centers throughout the island.”

“(MSU-General Santos) has graciously offered the use of their PCR machine,” she said in a Facebook post.

General Santos is a three-hour ride from Davao City.

Nograles assured that the protocols laid down by DOH will be strictly followed since the proposed testing center’s operation will involve the handling of live virus.

“Let us hope for the best in this matter. Again, we are one in our fight against the spread of COVID-19,” she said.

Alfredo Hebrona Jr., private sector representative of the Regional Development Council of Region 12, said a proposal was earlier crafted by “a group of minds from government and private sector stakeholders” for the establishment of the COVID-19 testing center in the city.

He called for support from the “Soccsksargen community” regarding the proposal and noted that its “major hurdles” include budget, and accreditation by the DOH and the World Health Organization.

“The consequence when COVID-19 testing is delayed is that the infected patient could have infected a lot of people already, and proper precaution was not observed because the sickness was only classified as severe pneumonia. That is why we need a COVID-19 testing center in GenSan,” he added.

DOH-12 already recorded two deaths involving patients under investigation (PUI) and one confirmed case of COVID-19.

A report released on Friday night by the regional epidemiology and surveillance unit said the COVID-19 patient (PH145) was in stable condition and in strict isolation at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center in Cotabato City.

The two deceased PUI’s, an 87-year-old male from Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat and a 51-year-old male from Koronadal City, expired last March 14 and 17, respectively, due to suspected symptoms of COVID-19.

Swab samples had been taken from the two and were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila but the results were still pending.

A total of 26 PUIs are currently admitted in various hospitals in the region, 14 were on home quarantine while six have already been discharged.

Some 784 PUMs were undergoing the 14-day mandatory home quarantine while 127 were already cleared by DOH-12. (MindaNews)