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ITRMC, the 1st accredited COVID-19 testing center in Region 1

Philippine Information Agency
22 May 2020, 04:38 GMT+10

SAN FERNANDO CITY, May 21 (PIA) - After passing all the requirements to become a testing center for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center (ITRMC) in this city is the first hospital in Region 1 that can perform an independent testing for the disease.

"Effective today, we can now do the testing but we will run sample starting tomorrow. And that's good news not only for the province of La Union but for the entire region as well," said Dr. Eduardo M. Badua, ITRMC medical center chief, in an exclusive interview with the Philippine Information Agency on Thursday.

Badua said, the Department of Laboratory of ITRMC, particularly their Molecular Biology Unit, has already acquired the certification from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) on May 20 after passing the proficiency exam for COVID-19 testing which makes their facility accredited to do testing using the RT Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine.

The medical center chief informed the PIA that it took them one and a half months to acquire the certification from the initial assessment conducted on April 4 by a composite team from the RITM, Department of Health, and a representative from the World Health Organization.

"They looked into everything from the equipment, facilities such as the design and negative pressure rooms, and the trainings and capabilities of the people who will work in the lab, and we complied with all the requirements", Badua said.

Further, he said that they have been using the existing molecular laboratory of the ITRMC for tuberculosis but they did necessary retrofitting to conform with the standards for a COVID-19 testing facility.

Initially on its startup, their capacity for testing is 50 specimens per day, but he said, when they get used to the job, it will gradually increase.

Under normal circumstances or if there will be no technical glitches, the turn-around time for results is 48 hours.

"When we say 48 hours, that is 48 hours after the receipt of the specimen in the laboratory," he explained.

He added that the number of test results also depend on the number of specimens that will be referred to them by the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) of the DOH.

On their priority cases for testing, Badua said they are bound to follow the guidelines set forth by the RESU and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Ensuring safety of laboratory staff

A total of 12 medical technologists will serve as the manpower of the laboratory. One laboratory head will supervise the operations of the facility.

Dr. Jimmy S. Rosales, section head of the Molecular Biology Laboratory of the ITRMC, informed that they have prepared for the opening of their testing facility and part of it are their workforce.

"Our personnel are well trained and are adept in biosafety standards," said Rosales.

He added, "We have conducted an in-house training on biosafety apart from being enrolled to webinars conducted by the University of the Philippines on biosafety," Rosales said.

Their staff were also trained on spill response which is vital for people working with chemicals.

Further, the section head shared that they have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and thanked their medical center chief for this.

"We have the support of our medical center chief who provided us ample supply of PPEs for at least three-month operation," he said.

Each staff in the lab also received a shot of flu vaccine.

Message to the public

Dr. Badua asked for the patience of the public especially the COVID-19 cases now that their testing facility is open.

"Do not expect too much particularly the turn-around time of tests especially when we are starting, but we will do things as swift as possible," he said.

He also assured that there will be no room for errors on the test results that will come from their facility.

"Each result that will be out from the Molecular Biology of the ITRMC will be sure, will be perfect, and we will make it as accurate as it should be," he guaranteed. (JCR/JPD, PIA La Union)

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