PGH eyes regular virus check for its workers, can't use Jack Ma test kits yet


Posted at Apr 02 2020 10:26 AM

MANILA - The Philippine General Hospital said Thursday it wanted to regularly screen its workers for COVID-19 and would not be able to use yet thousands of test kits that Chinese billionaire Jack Ma donated.

The state-run hospital got half of the 50,000 test kits from the founder of retail giant Alibaba. However, the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the kits which lacked parts for extracting macromolecules, said PGH Spokesperson Dr. Jonas Del Rosario.
"We're gonna explore how we will be able to use it," he told ANC.

The PGH has some 5,000 test kits from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and 25,000 kits that Singapore donated. It will also use kits that the University of the Philippines developed if regulators approve its mass distribution "hopefully next week", said Del Rosario.

The hospital is training some of its members to test all its workers for COVID-19 every 2 or 3 weeks, depending on the supply of screening kits, he said.

"If we can at least eliminate that fear and assure that they are COVID-19 negative, then that reduces the tension or the stress that they have," said the doctor.

Bolstered by recent donations and purchases, the PGH's safety gear for medical workers would be enough for the entire April, added Del Rosario, who earlier said the stash might only last for a week or 2.

The hospital ordered 15,000 more units of imported personal protective equipment and was "also exploring the possibility of using PPEs that have been sewn or done by our local distributors," he said.

"We will be giving the right PPE [to workers]... We will not compromise their safety, their health. You won't see stories of PGH health care workers wearing substandard or incomplete PPEs," Del Rosario said.

The hospital allotted 130 beds for patients with the novel coronavirus. It is tending to 36 people with COVID and 15 other "patients under investigation" who have symptoms of the disease, he said.

Out of PGH's 2,000-strong workforce, around 30 went on self-quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 patients while 2 were under monitoring for cough and fevers. None of them have tested positive for the respiratory disease, said Del Rosario.

The Philippines as of Wednesday confirmed 96 deaths out of its total 2,311 cases of the respiratory disease. The tally could continue to climb following the recent delivery of test kits and the accreditation of additional screening laboratories, said the health department.

Metro Manila and the entire Luzon, home to about half of the
country's 100 million people, is under lockdown until April 12 to contain the pandemic.