First biosafe swab mobile launched

(Photo Courtesy of Chamber Volunteer Fire Brigade)

By Dolly Yasa


BACOLOD City – The first biosafe swab mobile that will test suspected COVID-19 cases was launched here Thursday.

The project was initiated by Kara Leonardia, daughter of Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia, in partnership with Engineer Joseph Saril who provided the technical expertise in constructing the unit.

Saril is a mechanical and biomedical engineer with 20 years of experience in creating biosafe labs and facilities in Asia and the Pacific.

He helped respond to the SARS and H1N1 outbreak several years ago.

He had decided to come home to Bacolod last year. By coincidence, Kara had been introduced to the engineer while she was working on Sanitation chambers last month.

Saril said they used a mobile unit during the SARS outbreak to help protect health workers from being exposed during specimen extraction.

This came from the observation that when a patient wants to be tested, they would likely go to the hospital, he said

He said this may expose the patient to up to nine health workers, putting the medical staffs’ health at risk.

“With this unit, we can limit the exposure to only two health workers who would be further protected by the biosecurity measures in place within the van,” Saril said.

When asked why he decided to work on the project, Saril said, “With all the experience I’ve had abroad for so many years, it’s time to come home and put it to use here. I feel lucky to have the chance to help.”

He stressed that although the physical aspect of the mobile may be easily replicated, the biosafety measures are the most important factor when making the unit.

A series of testing and a final validation based on industry standards must be done before a unit is deemed safe for use, he said.

Kara Leonardia said she pushed for the project because she was alarmed by the number of doctors and nurses who had succumbed to COVID-19 in Manila during the earlier weeks of the pandemic.

She also hopes that the swab mobile “will give our health workers confidence that they are kept safe as they go about their duties when swabbing for samples.”
Dr. Julius Drilon, head of the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital, welcomed the Swab Mobile because the project would be in line with the construction of the regional hospital’s biolab which will be completed in June 2020.

Drilon said that while the biolab is still being constructed, the CHO will be able to use the mobile units when they go on their contact tracing missions, freeing up the use of ambulances which were their main mode of transportation.

The ambulances can then be disinfected and put back to use for other emergencies.