MANILA — The Department of Health on Tuesday said the country now has 11 laboratories accredited to run COVID-19 tests, increasing the country's overall testing capacity.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during a televised briefing that The Medical City in Ortigas was just recently accredited.
The other 10 laboratories already operating based on DOH data as of Monday are:
- Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City (can run 900 tests daily)
- San Lazaro Hospital in Manila (60 to 100 tests daily)
- UP National Institutes of Health in Manila (80 tests daily)
- Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City (100 tests daily)
- Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center in Baguio City (150 tests daily)
- Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City (80 tests daily)
- Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City (240 tests daily)
- Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City (100 tests daily)
- Bicol Public Health Laboratory in Legazpi City, Albay
- St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City.
Of the 11, 9 are government-run and two are private - St. Luke's and Medical City, which are among the private hospitals with the largest number of COVID-19 patients, based on DOH data.
“Walang tigil po ang ating pag-a-assess sa iba pang laboratoryo na kapag nabigyan ng sertipikasyon ay mas lalong makakatulong sa pagpapataas ng ating testing capacity,” Duque said.
(We continue to assess laboratories so that once they are certified, this can help increase our testing capacity.)
Since January, the RITM in Muntinlupa has been running most of the country’s COVID-19 tests. It was only in March that 5 other subnational laboratories were accredited by the DOH.
The process takes 5 stages, including self assessment, validation or on-site assessment by experts, personnel training, proficiency testing or validation by RITM, and full-scale implementation.
The Philippines has been struggling to increase its COVID-19 testing as it did not have enough test kits and laboratories at the onset of the outbreak.
It was only recently that the RITM was able to speed up its processing time of 5 to 7 days, due to backlogs, to 48 to 72 hours.
With more test kits and laboratories, the country has seen a continued rise in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, reaching 3,764 by Tuesday.
Duque said other strategies taken to increase the capacity of testing in the country are having an efficient workflow inside the laboratory, increasing the number of personnel, and allocating additional equipment if needed.
“We look at the strategic locations when certifying laboratories,” he said in Filipino.
Of the 11, two are in Visayas (Cebu City and Iloilo City) and one is in Mindanao. The rest are in Metro Manila and Luzon.
“Pagtutuunan ng pansin ang ibang pamamaraan ng pag-test. Kabilang dito ang GeneXpert, isang uri ng test na matagal nang ginagamit sa bansa [para sa] tuberculosis,” Duque said.
(We are also looking into other methods of testing, including GeneXpert, which is a kind of test that has long been used for tuberculosis testing.)
The GeneXpert platform is being studied in other countries as a potential tool for rapid molecular testing.
As of Monday, there have been more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests conducted in the Philippines. This includes repeat tests on individuals and it is unclear how many people exactly have been tested as of Tuesday.