DOH, SPMC want more COVID-19 testing labs in Mindanao

Apr. 15, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Department of Health in the region (DOH-XI) has encouraged the opening of more testing laboratories amid the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Dr. Lenny Joy Rivera, DOH-XI’s Assistant Regional Director, said there are already laboratories in Mindanao that expressed their interest.

“Hospitals like the Davao Regional and Medical Center and other private diagnostic labs would want to open testing laboratories for COVID-19,” she said in a virtual presser on Monday (Apr. 12).

However, she admitted they cannot certify them yet because the DOH needs to check the infrastructure, human resources, and trained personnel.

In Mindanao, the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) is currently the only COVID-19 reference laboratory authorized to perform the real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), the molecular diagnostic testing by the World Health Organization for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) detection.

SPMC Chief Dr. Leopoldo Vega said the institution has been at the forefront and was trained in molecular biology in PCR and RT-PCR machines even before H1N1 (swine flu).

“There is still a need for more molecular biology labs so that we can capacitate or improve our testing capacities especially of emerging and re-emerging infections,” he said.

If a pandemic happens, he added, we need to defend ourselves in terms of testing and isolating the people by boosting and helping the testing areas of Mindanao.

“Capacitating all hospitals in the use of PCR machines and viral molecular studies, both public and private, will prepare us in guarding the people against the mutation of virus and bacteria,” the SPMC chief said.

He shared that the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) is looking into Davao Regional Medical Center in Davao del Norte, Northern Mindanao and Zamboanga Medical Center as key strategic areas in Mindanao for tests in PCR and RT-PCR machines.

The SPMC subnational laboratory has conducted 1,908 tests since its certification with a capacity next to RITM. (

comments powered by Disqus