DOH-7 promises to address backlogs in COVID-19 testing

By: Morexette Marie B. Erram - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | May 17,2020 - 01:11 PM

In this photo taken on April 5, 2020, laboratory technician Irene Ooko prepares nasal swabs to be tested for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, at the Pathologists Lancet Kenya laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya. The company, which is offering tests to patients with a doctor’s referral, was previously having to send samples to South Africa for testing but is now completing the testing in-house in Kenya. | AP Photo/Brian Inganga

CEBU CITY, Philippines – More than 800 swab test samples in Central Visayas are yet to be tested for the coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr. Jaime Bernadas, director of the Department of Health in Central Visayas, said they are now trying to address the backlog, which resulted from various factors.

The subnational laboratory at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, for one, slowed down its operation since Friday, May 15, 2020, because of the need for disinfection.  When asked when the disinfection will be completed, Bernadas said he could only hope that they will be able to address their backlogs in the next two days.

Bernadas said they also needed an automated RNA extractor to speed up the examination of swab samples. But he denied reports that a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine at VSMMC broke down.

“The automated RNA extractors are coming. When both will arrive, we can have a capacity of 2,000 to 3,000 tests per day… We’re also addressing the importation process of the extractors care of our partners,” said Bernadas.

“We came short of our plan. Supposedly, everything should be complete last week in time with the intensified influenza-like illnesses surveillance or active case finding, and our random community testing with RAT (Rapid Antibody Test) and PCR,” he added.

VSMMC has the largest subnational level laboratory (SNL) that is qualified to carryout COVID-19 testing outside of Luzon.  It has the capacity to examine 400 swab samples per day.

Read: VSMMC identified as COVID-19 testing center for Visayas

Aside from VSMMC, there are two other laboratories in Central Visayas that have been certified by the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM).  These are the Cebu TB Reference Laboratory Molecular Facility for COVID-19 Testing (CTRL-MFCT) that is located inside DOH – 7’s property and the ARC Hospital in Lapu-Lapu City.

In a Facebook post early on Sunday morning, Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas said that they continue to wait for the test result of swab samples that were taken from city residents since May 8.

Gullas said he continues to pray that these swab tests would yield negative of COVID-19.

Downward trend

But while there is now a backlog in COVID-19 testing, data from DOH-7 showed a downtrend in the number of specimens that were submitted to Cebu laboratories from May 11 to 14.

As of May 14, VSMMC already tested over 13, 000 samples coming from the different parts of Central Visayas including those who were previously tested positive for the infection. COVID-19 patients are made to undergo retesting before they can officially be declared free of the infection.

However, DOH-7 has not been able to release the official laboratory results of specimens tested from May 15 to May 17.

The last test results that they released were from the 88 specimens that were tested on May 14.

Subnational laboratories in Cebu tested 583 specimens on May 11 and 439, 329, 88, and 28 specimens respectively on May 12, May 13, May 14, and May 15.

“Next week, we are aiming for our laboratory personnel to do tests 24/7. And we’re also training new medical technologists right now to augment human resource,” Bernadas said in Cebuano.

As of May 13, DOH – 7 recorded a total of 1,957 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Central Visayas with 28 deaths and 97 recoveries. / dcb

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TAGS: COVID-19 in Central Visayas, DOH-7, Dr. Jaime Bernadas
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