SPMC eyed as lab for Covid-19 in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 March) – The state-run Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) will soon become the satellite laboratory for “diagnosis and identification” of suspected novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients in Mindanao, SPMC chief of hospital Dr. Leopoldo Vega said.

Davao City remains free from the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) as laboratory results conducted by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) on the test swab taken from a patient confined at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) turned up negative. Photo taken Tuesaday, (10 March 2020). Mindanews photo

In a text message on Friday, Vega said the government hospital, the only medical facility recognized by the National Reference Laboratory as a satellite laboratory for Mindanao, is just waiting for the arrival of “reagent kits” from the Department of Health.

“These (reagent kits) are the things needed to test the virus. That’s what we need,” he said.

He explained that SPMC is the only hospital in Mindanao equipped with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine that allows real-time diagnosis of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

“Any time it (reagent kits) will arrive from Manila, it’s given to us. We are ready,” he said.

He said hospitals all over Mindanao would “send swabs” taken from suspected patients to SPMC, instead of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila, for diagnosis.

He said it usually takes 48 to 72 hours before they get laboratory results from the RITM, but once SPMC becomes capable hospitals could expect immediate results since diagnosis using the PCR machine is “real-time.”

“It’s easier because it’s in Mindanao; it becomes easier to transmit the data. It’s difficult when testing is centralized at the RITM because you have to send it via a courier. It takes a long process to do that, 48 to 72 before results would come out,” he said.

Vega said that if testing is done in Mindanao, the “diagnosis and identification” of COVID-19 positive patients would be more “efficient.”

He added the SPMC is capable of handling persons under investigation for the disease, noting that the state-owned tertiary hospital is equipped with “depressurized” containment facility that can hold a maximum of 10 patients, materials and trained personnel to take care of the patients. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)