RITM plans to capacitate DavNor hospital for testing of COVID-19

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 April) – The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) is looking at capacitating the Davao Regional Medical Center (DRMC) in Davao del Norte to test patients for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after the government hospital expressed the intent to upgrade its laboratory to help in detection of positive cases.

The Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City. MindaNews file photo by GREGORIO BUENO

Department of Health (DOH)-Davao assistant regional director Lenny Joy Rivera said the DRMC wrote RITM a letter of intent to become one of the laboratories in the country capable of testing suspected COVID-19 cases to hasten the detection of cases in Mindanao.

At present, all test samples from all over Mindanao are processed at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City, the only satellite laboratory in Mindanao recognized by the National Reference Laboratory to test patients through its polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine.

Rivera said there were also a few private hospitals with biosafety level 2 laboratories in the region that expressed similar intentions.

“They will have to undergo evaluation if they are capable in terms of infrastructure, manpower, human resource, trained personnel, and a lot more,” she added.

Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) chief of hospital Leopoldo Vega said other than Davao del Norte, the RITM also plans to capacitate government hospitals in Northern Mindanao and Zamboanga del Sur, both “strategic areas” for the testing of suspected COVID-19 cases.

Learning from the experience of COVID-19 pandemic, Vega said there is a need to “capacitate or improve on our testing laboratories, especially for the molecular biology because this is very important especially for emerging and re-emerging infections like what’s happening right now.”

He added the emerging and re-emerging infections such as A(H1N1), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-COV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Ebola Virus “will always occur.” He said RITM equipped SPMC following the outbreak of these highly infectious diseases several years ago.

“Pandemics will always occur and the emerging infections or re-emerging infection is going to be here. The virus and the bacteria will always mutate. I think we need to guard ourselves and make sure we are prepared. One way of doing this is to capacitate all of the hospitals especially the government hospitals and even the private to do their own molecular biology and train them in terms of doing the PCR and the viral molecular studies,” Vega added.

He said it would be easier to detect infected patients with more hospitals in Mindanao capable of testing highly infectious diseases.

“It would be easier for us if ever it happens again in another pandemic that we will be able to defend ourselves in terms of testing and isolating the people. There is really a big boost and help if we improve our testing areas here in Mindanao,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)