DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Mindanao’s first Covid-19 diagnostic laboratory is being eyed to operate in Tagum City this June to strengthen and speed up the diagnostic capacity in Davao Region.

This comes after a month of discussion between the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao, Davao Regional Medical Center (DRMC), and private sector with the Department of Health on setting up this facility.

Dr. Lyre Anni Murao, a professor of virology at the UP Mindanao and director of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) Mindanao, said last Friday that the DOH has given the go signal for the project.

A memorandum of agreement between UP Mindanao, DRMC, local government units, and private sector representatives on the facility is yet to be signed.

The setting up of this laboratory is expected to supplement the testing being done in Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), currently the only subnational referral center for Covid-19 in Mindanao.

DRMC chief medical technologist Alma Huerta said the building of a separate lab was something they wanted to improve their handling of cases without delay.

“Our goal is for better management of patients because as a hospital assigned to receive COVID-19 cases, our coverage is broad. Having the testing lab in DRMC will contribute to a much faster confirmatory test so we can better serve our patients,” Huerta said.

When the laboratory becomes operational, Dr. Murao said “the lab can produce results for priority patients, such as probable cases, within twenty-four hours. When fully operational, it is projected that the laboratory can handle 110 tests per day or 550 tests in a week [10 personnel per shift]. If DOH will approve mass testing, we can do that. The accreditation will also allow the laboratory to accept samples from any requesting hospital.”

This new facility meets the DOH’s goal of having more testing centers in Mindanao.

“With Mindanao being so vast and having a large population, it does not make sense to only have SPMC for Covid-19 testing here. Setting up this lab is such a huge task, but we are grateful to be working with DOH, DRMC, the local governments, and the private sector to make this happen,” said Murao.

Dr. Murao said the construction of the laboratory will follow the guidelines set by DOH on facility design and workflow.

“The core facility lab that we are making will be in two forty-feet container vans that are airtight, and we have carefully identified the lab site in DRMC that needs to be isolated,” she said.

The setting up of the facility will cost around P 16 million and will be funded by the provincial government of Davao del Norte and the private sector.

The projected monthly operation cost will be shouldered by the DRMC.

The staffing of the laboratory will come from personnel from the DRMC and the laboratory staff and scientist-volunteers of PGC Mindanao.

Dr. Murao said the PGC Mindanao staff and volunteers will serve in the laboratory for the first few months and will transition to the full staffing from DRMC once the facility becomes fully operational.

DRMC said they have fielded 14 medical technologists, including senior staff, for training to equip themselves to manage this facility.(davaotoday.com)

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