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DOH: Marikina can’t open virus testing lab

Facility must be housed in separate building, says health official

The opening of Marikina City’s much-anticipated testing center for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was thrown another roadblock on Thursday after the Department of Health (DOH) disapproved its location on the sixth floor of the Marikina City Health Office.

The laboratory should be situated in a completely separate facility to minimize the risk of cross-infection and restrict foot traffic for the protection of its staff, Health Undersecretary Maria Singh-Vergeire said in a letter to Mayor Marcelino Teodoro dated March 24.

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“The disapproval of the DOH is a denial to the Filipino people to get access for COVID-19 testing, especially those in the marginalized sector,” the local government said in a statement.

Public health emergency

It questioned the recommendation to build a separate facility—a time-consuming task, particularly against the backdrop of a fast-moving pandemic. Teodoro said the entire sixth floor of the health office and an elevator were designated for the exclusive use of the testing center.

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“The mayor wants the facility to be operational as soon as possible, because the country is already under a public health emergency,” the city government said. “This will address the need for mass testing in order to contain the transmission and spread of coronavirus.”

But Teodoro said he would comply with the directive if it meant getting the center open. It has been ready to operate since Monday, when an assessment team of personnel from the DOH, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and World Health Organization stepped in.

“The team finds the proposed COVID-19 testing facility in the Marikina City Health Center needs further enhancement and improvement to adhere with the existing standards for biosafety and biosecurity,” Vergeire said in her letter.

Teodoro, however, stressed that every delay meant the poor would continue to be denied testing and deprived of supportive treatment if they had indeed contracted the virus.

“They need to be isolated and contained so they don’t spread the disease to their loved ones,” he said.

Even as mass testing has effectively stemmed the spread of the disease in other countries, testing here has lagged considerably. Politicians have been the exception, however, as senators, representatives and Cabinet officials have swiftly secured both tests and results.

Lagging in testing

Apart from the testing center at the health office, the DOH also disapproved a laboratory at Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center (ARMMC) that the city had listed as an alternative testing facility.

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“The laboratory of ARMMC does not have the adequate space as well to incorporate COVID-19 testing,” Vergeire said.

Teodoro questioned why RITM, the main virus testing center in Metro Manila, was permitted to keep its administrative offices and medical facilities in one “coshared facility.”

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: COVID-19, Department of Health, Marikina City, Mayor Marcelino Teodoro, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, testing center, testing kit
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