SPMC to bolster its Covid-19 testing capacity soon

Apr. 23, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Southern Philippines Medical Center announced that it has taken steps to increase its testing capacity for the coronavirus disease-2019 (Covid-19) in the Davao region.

AS of now, though, Dr. Maria Elinore Concha, chief training officer of the SPMC, said that they only have two running RT-PCR machines with one back-up despite augmenting the number of medical technologists.

“The public should also understand the testing process; it is not merely collecting samples and have the machine read it. Medical technologists have to extract the DNA from a sample in a safe manner. The whole, a single process is long,” Concha explained.

She, however, said that along with the Department of Health, several government agencies as well as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), are working together in capacity-building activities for widened testing facilities.

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 endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for detection of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

Concha said that they have conducted 2,500 tests, with 100-500 tests performed daily.

“More testing laboratories could help the Davao region and Mindanao. It is based on the WHO’s parameters that widened testing could potentially help in the lifting of the quarantine,” she added.

SPMC, on the other hand, should work on adding more medical technologists, provide additional RT-PCR machines and bio-safety cabinets to ensure the safety of the medical workers in testing according to SPMC’s training chief.

Assistant Regional Director of the Department of Health Davao Region Lenny Joy Rivera, meanwhile, said that there are 17 subnational laboratories and 14 in the pipeline.

University of the Philippines Mindanao Genome Center with Davao Regional Medical Center is at Level 2, awaiting certification from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Rivera pointed out that the region could conduct 12,540 tests with the 1900 kits received.

“We have 11,525 kits remaining. We have plenty of testing kits but we need to consider the capacity of the SPMC,” she said in a virtual presser on April 21, Tuesday.

She shared that SPMC accommodates samples from other regions and conducts repeat testing among individuals tested as factors to be considered in the massive testing.

Mass testing based on the guidelines, she added, should factor in the individuals for testing and logistics.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved sixteen (16) COVID-19 Rapid Antibody test kits for commercial use as of April 16, 2020.

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