Palace: DOH talking to 8 labs to run coronavirus tests while Red Cross screening is suspended

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 26 2020 04:20 PM | Updated as of Oct 26 2020 04:43 PM

Philippine Red Cross

MANILA - The Department of Health is talking to 8 private laboratories to take over the coronavirus testing load of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), which suspended screenings funded by state medical insurer PhilHealth due to its P930-million debt, Malacañang said Monday. 

The 8 labs have a testing capacity “equivalent” to that of the PRC, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

“The funds are there… Ang assurance natin sa mga private labs, h’wag po kayong mag-alala. Hindi po kayo mapi-PRC dahil subject naman talaga po for reimbursement ng PhilHealth ang test to be given to OFWs,” he told reporters. 

(Our assurance to private labs is they should not worry.You will not suffer the fate of PRC because the test to be given to OFWs is really subject to reimbursement by PhilHealth.)

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The PRC ran some 1.1 million coronavirus tests, including those of repatriated migrant workers. This accounts to about a quarter of the country’s total 4.3 million tests. 

While the PRC testing remains suspended, the government is bringing swab samples to a laboratory in Pampanga, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and the Philippine General Hospital, said Roque. 

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said the government would pay Red Cross. 

Authorities just need to verify the cost of the tests, given that the Red Cross was a beneficiary of donated testing kits and machines, said Roque. 

What’s taking long to pay Red Cross for COVID-19 tests? Palace says its 'accounting reconciliation'

The government is initially “willing to pay 50 percent right now”, said Roque. However, the Red Cross has rejected an installment basis for settling the PhilHealth debt.