DOH rejects Marikina lab for COVID-19 testing, says it shouldn't be inside city hall

Aleta Nieva-Nishimori and Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2020 06:27 PM | Updated as of Mar 26 2020 06:55 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health on Thursday said it was disapproving Marikina City’s molecular laboratory for COVID-19 testing due to issues relating to "space and biosafety."

“Hindi po naaprubahan ang laboratoryo dahil hindi pumasa sa standards on space and biosafety,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during a televised briefing.

(The laboratory wasn’t approved because it did not pass the standards on space and biosafety.)

“Nasa 6th floor po kasi ang kanilang laboratoryo kaya iminungkahi ng DOH na gamitin ang laboratoryo ng Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center o magset-up ng ibang laboratoryo sa ibang lokasyon,” he added.

(The laboratory is on the 6th floor so the DOH suggested that they can use the laboratory at the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center or they can set up another laboratory in another location.)

Duque said officials may look for another location, by using a modular or prefab structure for the laboratory.

In separate interview, the country's healthy chief said the molecular laboratory was set up inside Marikina City Hall, and not a hospital. 

"Hindi naman namin magampanan sa ngayon na bigyan sila ng lisensiya dahil unang-una, nasa city hall 'yung kanilang laboratory. Pangalawa, 'yung biosafety standard hindi pa naman nasusunod," he said.

(We can't give them a license now because first of all, their laboratory is at city hall. Second, the biosafety standard has not been followed.) 

"Mas maganda talaga na 'yung lab nakabukod at maganda rin nasa loob ng ospital," he added.

(It's best if the lab is separate and it’s also good if it's inside a hospital.)

Marikina's P3.8-million laboratory is equipped with a polymerase chain reactor (PCR) machine and other equipment that could be used to test COVID-19 cases. It can analyze nearly 100 tests per day and could also help diagnose COVID-19 cases in nearby municipalities.

The facility, however, has to be accredited by the DOH first before it conducts COVID-19 testing.

Duque said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine will help the local government in setting up a facility that follows biosafety guidelines.

Duque said accrediting a molecular laboratory for COVID-19 testing cannot be rushed due to strict biosafety standards since the facility will handle a live virus. 

"Kapag ang kaligtasan ng laboratoryo ay hindi nakasiguro ay posibleng magkaroon ng epidemya, contamination sa laboratory at nasa city hall ay napakabigat po nung posibleng disgrasyang mangyari," he said.

(A possible epidemic or contamination may happen if we can't ensure the safety of the laboratory and it is located in the city hall.)

Marikina City Mayor Marcy Teodoro earlier said DOH disapproved their proposed in-city COVID-19 Testing Center, which was established through its partnership with the University of the Philippines' National Institutes of Health and a private company. 

“Kailangan daw magtayo ng hiwalay na building,” Teodoro said. 

Teodoro earlier said that minor adjustments were made such as tinting of windows as specimens are light-sensitive as required by the DOH after the inspection of the facility Monday.

Teodoro added that he is still hopeful that the procurement of the laboratory and testing kits will not go to waste.

“Kailangan ng tao ng testing, yun lang ang bottomline talaga, kaya nga ako willing ako na sila na ang mag-assume takeover dun sa laboratory,” Teodoro said. - With reports from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News