SPMC’s 2 molecular biologists working 16 hours a day to process COVID-19 test samples

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 April) – The two molecular biologists of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), the lone hospital recognized as a satellite laboratory by the National Reference Laboratory to test emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, are working 16 hours a day to process samples from patients suspected of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Dr. Leopoldo Vega said, SPMC chief of hospital, said they only have one polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine, which is utilized to detect and diagnose suspected COVID-19 patients from the six regions of Mindanao.

He said the SPMC has processed over 2,000 samples since the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) authorized the government hospital to conduct COVID-19 testing beginning last week of March.

Vega said the SPMC’s PCR machine could process a batch of 60 to 65 samples per test, which takes eight hours. Vega added the SPMC’s molecular biology laboratory could undertake two sets of testing a day.

“Last Easter Sunday, there were no tests done. The reason for this is we need to give a break for our medical technologists. They work 16 hours and I think we cannot also strain them that hard especially during Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. I think there is break in terms of the testing but they are back to testing right now,” Vega added.

He said the SPMC’s two molecular biologists underwent a specialized training conducted by the RITM to capacitate them in the detection of patients infected with the highly infectious disease.

In terms of COVID-19 testing, Vega claimed SPMC’s laboratory is the second busiest in the country after RITM in Manila.

“We are second to RITM. Our number of examined patients or tested is much more than any other hospitals in Luzon, and I think we are the number 2 doing the test here in SPMC,” he said.

Vega said around 300 SPMC frontliners had undergone the testing for COVID-19. Of the total, 12 were tested positive.

Only two positive frontliners, who manifest moderate symptoms, remain in SPMC’s containment facility while the 10 others were already discharged.

Mindanao recorded 133 COVID-19 cases as of April 12. Of the total, 56 have recovered and 26 died. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)