GenSan fast-tracking operationalization of COVID-19 testing lab

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 8 Sep) – Efforts to fast-track the operationalization of the city’s modular molecular laboratory for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) received a major boost, with the intervention of the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19.

City Mayor Ronnel Rivera said Tuesday the NTF has vowed to help accelerate the approval of the laboratory and the issuance of the “license to operate” from the Department of Health (DOH).

He said the move was personally relayed by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, the overseer of the task force’s COVID-19 response in the Visayas, during a virtual meeting on Monday.

Members of the city’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases and the Soccsksargen Regional IATF on COVID-19 conferred with Cimatu and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the NTF chairperson, regarding the ongoing response initiatives in the area.

Rivera said among those discussed was the testing capacity and the increasing cases of COVID-19 in parts of the region.

“He (Cimatu) pledged to help fast track the accreditation of our testing center,” he said in a statement.

The mayor said they already completed last week the training of the medical technologists and other personnel assigned to the facility or the third stage of the accreditation process.

He said they are only waiting for the schedule of the proficiency testing, the fourth stage, that will be conducted by the DOH.

The city government had commissioned a company accredited with the DOH and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to assemble the P15-million COVID-19 testing laboratory, which was delivered in the first week of June.

City officials initially targeted to operate the facility, which is situated at the back of the local government-run Dr. Jorge P. Royeca Hospital (DJPRH), in the third week of June but was delayed due to the required adjustments on its setup.

Dr. Ryan Aplicador, DJPRH chief, said last week the testing laboratory is already operational and has conducted initial trial tests, though still considered unofficial.

Swab samples from suspected COVID-19 patients here are currently processed at the St. Elizabeth Hospital, which uses a GeneXpert machine.

But the testing capacity of the hospital, which is operated by the Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings Inc., is currently limited due to the lack of test cartridges.

Since it opened in mid-July, St. Elizabeth already conducted a total of 681 tests for suspected COVID-19 patients from the city and nearby Sarangani province, with 101 or 15 percent turning out positive.

As of Tuesday morning, the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city already reached a total of 130, with six deaths and 49 recoveries.

In a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte aired over national television on Monday night, Cimatu cited the city as among the areas of concern for COVID-19 due to the increasing cases of local transmission.

He said NTF members will visit the area next week to assist the response efforts against the disease. (MindaNews)