South Cotabato pushing for opening of COVID-19 testing center in Koronadal in May

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 28 April) – The provincial government of South Cotabato is pushing for the opening later next month of a proposed testing center for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in nearby Koronadal City.

Empty streets of Koronadal City as a result of the quarantine implemented to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

John Arlo Codilla, infectious diseases coordinator of the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), said they have fast-tracked the processing of requirements for the operationalization of the testing facility in partnership with a private hospital.

Based on their timeline, he said they are hoping to complete the process in the next three weeks.

The IPHO filed earlier this month a letter of intent with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for the assessment and accreditation of the planned testing center at the Dr. Arturo P. Pingoy Medical Center (DAPPMC).

Codilla said the local government opted to partner with the hospital as it has the capacity to provide the needed logistics for a biosafety level 2 laboratory, which will be equipped with a polymerase chain reaction or PCR machine capable of handling COVID-19 test.

“We are now in the second stage of the implementation process and complying with the revisions made by the DOH and RITM in the initial assessment,” he told reporters.

Codilla said they have sent a letter to the Philippine Business for Social Progress to allow the use for the COVID-19 tests of one of the three PCR genexpert machines that it had donated to the province.

The machines were being used by the IPHO for tuberculosis and human immunodeficiency virus or HIV testing.

He said they were waiting for the approval of the DOH regarding the use of the PCR genexpert machine for the DAPPMC laboratory.

As part of the process, he said the health care personnel who were assigned to manage the facility are currently undergoing biosafety training in coordination with the RITM.

Once the second stage is completed, he said they will seek another assessment from the RITM and approval to proceed with the proficiency test.

Under this process, Codilla said the RITM will provide samples to verify the capability of the laboratory in conducting COVID-19 tests.

He said they will be using test kits for PCR confirmation that had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. personally pushed for the opening of a COVID-19 testing center in the province to facilitate the proper management of the suspect and probable cases.

He said it will allow health care workers to immediately test suspected patients and set necessary interventions if they turn out positive.

The province has so far recorded three confirmed cases of COVID-19 but two of them have already recovered.

As of Monday, the IPHO reported zero probable cases while there were eight admitted suspected patients, 62 already discharged and 52 were outpatients. (MindaNews)