UP Mindanao eyes opening of COVID-19 test lab by June

Davao Regional Medical Center personnel undergo
hands-on training on laboratory techniques and procedures for SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics in UP
Mindanao in preparation for the COVID-19 facility of the hospital.
Photo courtesy of Philippine Genome Center-Mindanao

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 24 April) – Mindanao will have its second COVID-19 testing laboratory by June this year, University of the Philippines Mindanao said in a press release Friday.

“We are looking at a time frame for the COVID-19 diagnostic laboratory to be operational by June,” said Dr. Lyre Anni Murao, a professor of virology at the university and director of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) Mindanao.

The testing laboratory will be built at the Davao Regional Medical Center (DRMC) in Tagum City. It will supplement the testing being done at the Southern Philippines Medical Center, currently the only recognized subnational referral center for the disease in Mindanao, UP Mindanao said.

“The initial staff for the said lab will include the laboratory personnel from PGC Mindanao and DRMC, as well as trained volunteers,” it added.

“We already have the go signal of DOH (Department of Health) to proceed with the project, and engineers are making the plans that will be submitted to DOH for review and approval. When the plans are approved, construction can proceed,” she said.

She said that once the DOH grants the accreditation there will be no need to send swab samples to Manila for testing.

“The lab can produce results for priority patients, such as probable cases, within twenty-four hours. When fully operational, it is projected that the laboratory can handle 110 tests per day or 550 tests in a week [10 personnel per shift]. If DOH will approve mass testing, we can do that. The accreditation will also allow the laboratory to accept samples from any requesting hospital,” she added.

Murao said the project will need P15 to 16 million for initial setup cost and an additional P8 million for monthly operation cost. “DRMC will shoulder the monthly operation cost. For the set-up cost, we have funding from the Davao del Norte LGU and the private sector.”

Since March, university officials have been meeting with local government units, DOH-11 and the private sector to tackle the proposal to build another testing laboratory in the Davao Region.

The parties are yet to sign a memorandum of agreement on the project. (MindaNews)