Second COVID-19 lab in Region 6 up by June

Another testing center for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Western Visayas will become fully operational by June 2020, a health official said.

West Visayas State University Medical Center (WVSUMC) is on the first step of the accreditation process, according to Dr. Aretha Ann Liwag, head of the WVSUMC quality assurance office.

Liwag said WVSUMC was assessed by the World Health Organization (WHO), Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the Department of Health (DOH) for the laboratory accreditation.

“They had a lot of inputs that we need to comply with. Until such time that we comply it, we are going towards accreditation,” she said.

The assessment tackled the space that the WVSUMC will be using for COVID-19 testing.

Liwag said the Newborn Screening Center has offered the space for the laboratory.

“There are little adjustments that we need to do on the floor plan,” she said.

Apart from preparing the laboratory space, the WVSUMC is also preparing the equipment and staff that are essential to the laboratory’s operation.

She said the Philippine Genome Center-Visayas and the University of San Agustin have collaborated to hasten the accreditation process by lending a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine to the laboratory.

“Two PCR machines are ideal for one laboratory but eventually, we will add to the machines for us to test more,” she said.

Meanwhile, around 15 medical technologists who will run the laboratory will undergo accredited online lectures and workshops of the Philippine Genome Center for bio-safety training, among others.

The medical technologists will also undergo training on handling the PCR machine and different test kits.

“Everything is hoped to be completed within one month,” she said, adding that by June, the laboratory can start with COVID-19 testing.

While WVSUMC awaits accreditation, COVID-19 specimens in Western Visayas are accepted at the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC), a sub-national laboratory accredited by the DOH.

The WVMC can accommodate around 100 specimens for COVID-19 testing daily, Liwag said.

The specimens are from Iloilo, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Negros Occidental, Guimaras; and the highly-urbanized cities of Iloilo and Bacolod.

“It is the same number if the WVSUMC starts testing then, gradually, it will increase its capacity,” she said.

The increase in testing capacity will depend on the scheme that will be used by the laboratory.

It can supplement its existing PCR machines or add to the testing time and run for 24 hours a day, Liwag said.

Once fully operational, the WVSUMC Covid-19 laboratory will be of great help to the region.

“Through the testing center, we will be able to identify the COVID-19 cases for them to be put on isolation and be treated adequately. The PCR testing is also important because it is the gold standard testing that will identify if the patient has an infection,” Liwag said. (PNA)