Saliva COVID-19 test not yet included in PhilHealth benefits: Red Cross

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 31 2021 10:38 AM | Updated as of Jan 31 2021 12:26 PM

Saliva COVID-19 test not yet included in PhilHealth benefits: Red Cross 1
The Philippine National Red Cross begins to conduct the newly approved saliva RT-PCR testing at their headquarters in Mandaluyong City on January 25, 2021, after getting the approval from the Department of Health. Saliva testing is a non-invasive way of testing for COVID-19 compared to swab testing. Individuals can avail of the alternative testing for P2,000.00 and book an appointment with the PNRC. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - State insurer PhilHealth has yet to include saliva COVID-19 tests in its benefit package, the Philippine Red Cross said Sunday.

The non-government organization last week launched the cheaper and non-invasive saliva PCR test in its Metro Manila laboratories following approval from the Department of Health.

The DOH Health Technology Assessment Council, however, has yet to give the go-signal for public use, said PRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon.

"Ang sabi sa'min ni (Health) Secretary Duque, pwede na namin i-test, pero private use. 'Yung pangkaraniwang mamamyan, huli na naman. Dahil ang magbabayad sa pangkaraniwang mamayan, yung mga OFW, ay ang ating magiting at masipag kuno na PhilHealth," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(Secretary Duque told us we can test but for private use. The ordinary people, the OFWs, will be late to avail because their testing is shouldered by PhilHealth.)

"Medyo napipikon na rin ako kasi hindi naman tama na mabagal sila, kaya I call a spade a spade."

(I'm getting angry because it's not right that they're slow. That's why I call a spade a spade.)

The state insurer still owes PRC some P590 million for its coronavirus testing of returning Filipino migrant workers, Gordon said.

"Gusto namin mapawi yan para makatulong, nang makatulong sa ating mamamayan. Please do not misunderstand, we want to be able to save our people as fast as we can and we need the cooperation of everybody, especially the government," he said.

(We want this to be paid because we want to continuously help our people.)

The PRC has so far conducted the majority of coronavirus tests in the country at 1.8 million, Gordon said.

The Philippines' ranking in a COVID-19 performance index would be lower than 79 if not for the PRC's testing, he added.

"Nalulungkot ako na tayo raw ay 79 out of 98 sa buong mundo. Kung di pa tayo nag-test, papaano kaya tayo? Kung di kami nag-test, eh di lalong mababa tayo. Mas maraming masasaktan na tao kung di tayo nagte-test," he said.

(I'm saddened that we rank 79 out of 98 worldwide. If we didn't test, where would we be? If we did not test, our rank would be lower. More people will be ill if we don't test.)

The saliva PCR test will be available in all Red Cross laboratories nationwide beginning February, according to its molecular laboratories head Dr. Paulyn Ubial.

More than 800 volunteers from 96 chapters are undergoing training for correct saliva sample collection, said Brian Enriquez, manager of PRC Chapter Development Office.

Gordon said the PRC will sign agreements with owners of malls where the organization can conduct saliva PCR tests, and will do the same with schools and private companies.

The Philippines has logged 523,516 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Saturday, exactly a year after it recorded its first coronavirus infection. Of the cumulative total, 36,943 are active cases.

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