DOH to deploy 300 volunteer medical lab workers for expanded COVID-19 testing

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 13 2020 06:09 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health on Monday said it will be deploying volunteer medical laboratory professionals on Tuesday, April 14, in time for its target day to start the expanded testing for the novel coronavirus disease.

The DOH and the National Task Force on COVID-19 earlier promised to reach 3,000 tests a day by April 14, and 8,000 to 10,000 tests by the end of April.

“Ang kagawaran ay nakikipagtulungan sa National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology ng University of the Philippines Diliman para sa strategic na pagde-deploy sa mahigit 300 volunteer medical technologists, molecular biologists, lab technicians at researchers na silang magsu-supplement sa workforce ng ating mga laboratoryo,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a televised briefing on Monday.

(The agency is cooperating with the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the University of the Philippines Diliman for the strategic deployment of more than 300 volunteer medical technologists, molecular biologists, lab technicians and researchers who will supplement the workforce of our laboratories.)

“Sa paraan pong ito, ang masisiguro natin, may sapat na health workers sa bawat pasilidad,” Vergeire added.

(Through this, we can ensure that there are enough health workers for each facility.)

“Ang atin din pong laboratoryo magpapatupad ng extended operating hours,” she said.

(Our laboratories will also implement extended operating hours.)

She said more than 1,400 medical workers have also finished an online biosafety course in preparation for the expanded testing.

Currently, there are 15 certified laboratories for COVID-19 testing and more will be accredited.

Vergeire said the evaluation of 28 more laboratories will be expedited, with those from the Visayas and Mindanao who have applied for certification to be prioritized.

The DOH said it is also looking at other testing approaches such as the use of existing Gene Xpert machines with COVID-19 test cartridges that were already approved by the US government.

To rationalize the use of medical equipment, the Department of Science and Technology will work with the DOH in lending medical equipment and supplies from academic institutions. Vergeire said 6 PCR test machines have already been lent.

As of Monday, the Philippines has recorded 4,932 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of that number, 242 have recovered and 315 have died.

According to the DOH website, more than 35,000 individuals have already been tested, and more than 86,000 COVID-19 test kits are still available.

The agency said it is implementing targeted testing, which prioritizes severe and critical cases, patients with mild symptoms but are part of the vulnerable population including the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, and health workers.