Marikina to open COVID-19 test hub without DOH nod

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2020 10:32 AM | Updated as of Apr 14 2020 02:15 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) - The Marikina city government on Tuesday said it would open a COVID-19 testing center in the city even without approval from the Department of Health, as cases of the respiratory disease continued to spike nearly a month since the lockdown of millions in Luzon. 

Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro invoked local governments' autonomy and the nationwide state of public health emergency for the Friday opening of the P3.8-million molecular laboratory. 

The city government had moved the facility to a different building after it was initially rejected by the DOH while at the 6th floor of the City Health Office and was found to have failed standards on "space and biosafety

A shortage of test sites has led to delays in the reporting of COVID-19 cases, the mayor said. As an example, the mayor cited a 75-year-old Marikina resident who died last week 2 days before the results of his COVID-19 test came out positive. 

"Maaaring hindi mali ang datos, pero late ang reporting, and I would say late reporting is a wrong reporting," Teodoro told reporters. 

(Perhaps the data is not wrong, but it was late reporting, and I would say late reporting is wrong reporting.) 

He also said the health department failed to inspect the laboratory on Monday. 

DOH representatives arrived at the lab after Teodoro's announcement. 

DOH later told media, “We have a DOH team currently assessing the Marikina laboratory. Dr. Leviste's team is currently onsite.”

“This is to dispel claims that DOH is not coordinating,” it said.

The mayor, meanwhile, said he would face possible repercussions if only to get the laboratory operational. 

"Idemanda na nila ako para sa kababayan ko. Sa tingin ko mas malaking kasalanan sa batas at tao ang kawalang-aksyon ng DOH ngayon dahil buhay ang nawawala," he added. 

(They can press charges against me. I think the inaction of the DOH is a bigger crime against the law and the public because lives are lost.) 

Marikina's laboratory can run up to 100 tests a day and help screen potential cases of the respiratory disease in neighboring towns, he earlier said. 

The facility was developed with the help of the University of the Philippines-National Institutes for Heath, which produced the first Filipino-made COVID-19 test kits. 

Marikina officials have started transferring equipment to the laboratory in Bayan-Bayanan Avenue from its original location at the city hall. 

Private institution Manila HealthTek will also provide additional equipment and train technicians for the laboratory, said its sales and marketing director Maricar Ocampo. 

The Philippines has 10 COVID-19 testing sites nationwide. Five laboratories accredited Monday will need 3 to 4 more days of preparation, said the health department. 

- With reports from Adrian Ayalin and Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News