Davao del Norte hospital running out of cartridges for COVID-19 testing

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 July) — The Davao Regional Medical Center (DRMC) is running out of  cartridges for its two units of GeneXpert, which process specimens for COVID-19 confirmatory tests from the three provinces of Davao Region and the entire Caraga Region, hospital chief Dr. Bryan Dalid said.

The government hospital in Tagum City has been catering to the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, Davao Oriental, and Caraga Region since May 30 after receiving accreditation as a subnational laboratory from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and Department of Health-Health Facilities and Services Regulatory Bureau.

Dr. Bryan Dalid, chief of the Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City, Davao del Norte. File photo courtesy of DOH-Davao

Dalid said during a virtual presser on Friday that the hospital had asked the national government to send 1,400 additional cartridges to continue their operation.

He said the DRMC received a total of 2,300 cartridges to run the two units of US-made GeneXpert machines, also known as the Rapid Polymerase Chain Reaction Xpert Express SARS-CoV-2.

He said the laboratory has less than a hundred remaining cartridges, and has been redirecting specimens coming from Caraga Region to Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) since last week.

Dalid said Caraga has no COVID testing center as of the moment so it sends its specimens to DRMC for testing.

“Three days ago, we were redirecting their specimens already to SPMC because we’re running low on cartridges and I hope we can have more cartridges so that we can resume testing our catchment areas,” he added.

He said the DRMC has so far processed 2,161 samples as of Friday. Of this total, 136 yielded positive results while 2,025 turned out negative.

Dalid said the two GeneXpert machines process about 65 tests per day, from Mondays to Fridays, but “for the past four days, we are at five to 10 because we are running low on cartridges.”

He said the Philippines could only get a limited supply of cartridges from Cepheid, the US-based manufacturer.

“We have a little bit of problem now in terms of cartridges.  Our GeneCpert machines were reconfigured machines, which are originally intended for testing of MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). The manufacturer, Cepheid, reconfigured this and made cartridges that can detect SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19,” he said.

PH 130, has recovered from COVID-19 and has been discharged from the Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

He said cartridges, manufactured by Cepheid, would be apportioned among more than 20 countries, including the Philippines, that utilize GeneXpert for COVID-19 testing.

He added they are hoping to get the RT-PCR laboratory of DRMC operationalized by the third week of August, which can process 100 specimens daily through manual extraction and up to 300 tests daily through automated extraction.

As of July 25, Department of Health-Davao reported a total of 1,133 cases in the region with 45 deaths and 622 recoveries.

Of the total cases, 762 are in Davao City, 121 in Davao del Norte, 50 in Davao del Sur, 79 in Davao de Oro, 95 in Davao Oriental, and 26 in Davao Occidental. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)