COVID-19 PCR tests to start in Northern Mindanao soon--health exec | Inquirer News

COVID-19 PCR tests to start in Northern Mindanao soon–health exec

/ 09:23 PM May 18, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – At least two PCR testing facilities in Northern Mindanao are expected to open in the next few days to speed up the identification and treatment of patients infected with COVID-19 in the region.

This was after the city government purchased real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines for use of these laboratories to make testing more accessible in the region.


Dr. Adriano Suba-an, regional director of the Department of Health-10, said the laboratories at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) and the tuberculosis reference center at the DOH-10 regional office had been upgraded to be used for testing of suspected COVID-19 cases.

Subaan said the NMMC laboratory had already been granted license to operate by the DOH on May 13. The laboratory is only awaiting the arrival of cartridges for the test machines formerly used for TB detection to re-calibrated these for COVID-19 testing.


He said the cartridges, a component of the testing machine, were supposed to arrive on May 14 but these were not transported on time from Manila due to travel limitations.

“Once the cartridges arrive, the [NMMC laboratory] will be functional immediately,” Suba-an told members of city council during its special session Thursday.

Dr. Bernard Rocha, NMMC’s epidemiologist, said the state hospital’s existing equipment being used to detect tuberculosis, the GeneXpert machine, had been re-calibrated for COVID-19 testing.

Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno said the state-run NMMC would also be provided with a testing machine by the city government.

Suba-an said the two US-made real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines earlier purchased by the city government had already arrived and had been turned over and installed at the DOH-10 laboratory.

He said these new test laboratories here would complement the testing being done at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), currently the only accredited rtPCR testing laboratory in Mindanao.

Aside from these two testing laboratories, the local office of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) and the privately-owned Polymedic Medical Plaza are also being eyed as COVID-19 testing sites in the region, according to Subaan.


Polymedic already passed the third stage of the five-stage DOH accreditation. The third stage requires the training of medical personnel who will operate the testing machines.

Both the DOH and NMMC laboratories are now on the fourth stage, which requires proficiency training for their specialists in the conduct of testing.

Subaan said personnel had to handle at least five COVID-19 patients correctly before they could pass the fourth stage.

This means that the testing facilities at this stage may already accept COVID-19 samples but its results still have to be sent to the RITM for confirmation.

Once the laboratory got the five tests right, they already passed the fifth stage.

“The laboratory will first need to test five positive samples (which should be) confirmed by [Research Institute for Tropical Medicine] before proceeding to a full-scale implementation,” the DOH-10 added.

“Once all five positive samples have been confirmed by RITM as correct, the laboratory will be certified and allowed to process and test samples in full scale,” the health agency said.

Moreno said the two testing machines provided to the DOH-10 would serve not just Northern Mindanao but also its neighboring regions.

Once operational, the DOH-10’s testing capacity will cater to other areas in Mindanao such as parts of Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and the provinces in the Caraga region near the city, the mayor said.

“We must anticipate that there will be more testing to be done here,” Moreno said. He said Cagayan de Oro will join the cities of Davao and Zamboanga as the centers for COVID-19 testing in Mindanao. He said the conduct of more testing would prepare the city for the easing up of lockdown measures to revive the economy.


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