Amang Rodriguez hospital not yet an option for COVID-19 testing in Marikina – DOH

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The Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center in Marikina City

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 27) — Marikina City is back to square one for the plan to set up its own COVID-19 testing center, with the Department of Health also turning down the use of the laboratory in the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center.

DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said Friday that space constraints also led authorities to thumb down the use of the DOH-run hospital along Sumulong Highway to test swab samples for the novel coronavirus.

"Upon inspection, the existing laboratory of Amang Rodriguez Medical Center was not big enough. It did not have adequate space for us to house the RT-PCR machine. That’s why in the recommendation, we said the Amang Rodriguez Medical Center cannot this time house the PCR," Vergeire told CNN Philippines' The Source.

The RT-PCR, short for real time polymerase chain reaction machine, is being used to process specimen from patients to see if a person has COVID-19.

In a later briefing, Vergeire clarified that they are not against the local government setting up its own testing laboratory.

"Hindi po tayo tumututol sa pagtayo ng sariling laboratoryo ng Marikina. Sa katunayan po ito ay ating hangad, at layunin ng kagawaran na makapagbukas ng mas marami pang laboratoryo para magtest ng COVID-19,” she said in a media briefing.

[Translation: We are not against Marikina setting up its own laboratory. The truth is we encourage it and it is the agency’s goal to open even more laboratories that can test for COVID-19.]

She added that the DOH is even in talks with some “donors” who are interested in funding the facility.

Inaayos na lang po namin ang mga detalye ng pakikipagtulungan na ito,” added Vergeire.

[Translation: We are just fixing up this agreement.]

On Thursday, the Health Department rejected the city's pitch to set up a COVID-19 testing center at the Marikina City Health Office as it failed to meet space and biosafety standards. Vergeire explained that these "deficiencies" triggered the rejection, which could be reversed if Marikina can find a vacated and spacious area to set up the laboratory.

However, Vergeire clarified that DOH and Marikina City should not be pitted against each other as "competitors." The DOH-run Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa conducts the most number of coronavirus tests in a day, while select government-run institutions have also been tapped to test samples in other parts of the country.

"This process is very risky, we are carrying a live virus when we do this... We like to be assured that there would be no breaches in protocol when we do this so that we don’t risk the health of our healthcare workers handling the specimen and of course, the community where they reside," she added.

READ: Local governments must coordinate with Health Dept. before buying COVID-19 test kits

Among the issues raised against the city's proposed testing center is its location. Vergeire said running the laboratory on the sixth floor of a public building raises safety issues, as it was not enough to dedicate one elevator or stairway for laboratory personnel.

"People are now saying that we are asking for them to build another building, we are not saying that. We’re just recommending if they can find another office with adequate space and appropriate for this," the Health official added.

Vergeire said DOH laboratories have processed 2,147 tests out of 4,070 specimens collected as of Thursday.

There are now 803 COVID-19 cases in the country, which has led to 54 deaths. Some of them died before even knowing they had the disease. Meanwhile, 31 people have recovered.