Region 10 to start own COVID-19 testing on May 21

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 18 May) — Barring any delays, the laboratory of the government-owned Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) will start processing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests this Thursday, May 21.

However, Dr. Joselito Retuya, epidemiologist at the Cagayan de Oro Health office, said the testing will be limited to persons afflicted with acute respiratory illness (ARI) and influenza-like illness (ILI) or suspected cases involving medical workers and other COVID-19 frontliners.

Retuya noted the Cagayan de Oro government and the Department of Health – Region 10 could not yet launch a mass testing even if the laboratory at the NMMC becomes operational.

He said that health personnel will continue to resort to testing targeted individuals until more Xpert Xpress processing machines can be installed at the NMMC laboratory.

“Patients and health care workers will be prioritized. Those with co-morbidities and pregnant women will also be prioritized,” Retuya said.

The Department of Health-10 has targeted to conduct 400 to 500 tests a day in Northern Mindanao.

NMMC spokesperson Dr. Bernard Rocha said they are cautious not to over use the lone Xpert Xpress machine of the hospital.

Rocha said the NMMC is still awaiting the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction machine (RT-PCR) promised by the city government.

A report from the Cagayan de Oro Information Office said the city government has lent two RT-PCR machines to DOH-10 to complement their Xpert Xpress machine and ordered a third RT-PCR machine for NMMC.

“Once the three RT-PCR machines are operational, we can process 90 tests per hour daily,” Rocha said.

Rocha said the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine has sent 1,140 cartridges for the express testing machine, which the Philippine Air Force airlifted to Cagayan de Oro last Sunday.

Once operational, the NMMC laboratory will be the first medical facility capable of processing COVID-19 swab tests in Northern Mindanao.