WVMC lab aims to hike capacity to 1,000 tests daily

By Emme Rose Santiagudo

Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in Mandurriao, Iloilo City, the sole subnational reference laboratory in the region, has run a total of 6,002 tests from March 23 to May 8, 2020 to diagnose coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

Dr. Stephanie Abello of WVMC said the 6,002 tests covered 5,288 persons.

The difference between the actual tests and the persons tested is attributed to the repeat tests conducted by the laboratory.

“The difference is due to the repeat tests conducted, that is why mas damo ang number of tests sang sa number of persons tested,” Abello said in an online press briefing on Friday

Of the 6,002 tests ran, 92 were positive, or equivalent to 1.53 percent, she added.

WVMC can process up to 500 specimens daily with results released within 24 to 48 hours.

“The running time pag-abot sa laboratory is 18-21 hours depende sa number. Then, we can release it after 24-48 hours. We are actually aiming nga kon ano gina-submit today gina-run namon by 1 pm. Samples nga indi ma-run are those submitted after 6 pm to 7 pm,” Abello said.

Based on their protocol on releasing the laboratory results, Abello said all laboratory results that were completed before 12 noon, regardless of the number, will be released to the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU).

The RESU will then distribute and forward the results to the different local government units (LGUs) and corresponding agencies.

Abello explained that the LGU, particularly the local health units such as the City Health Office (CHO), the Provincial Health Office (PHO), and health institutions are responsible of releasing the results to the individuals.

Wala kami naga-release directly sang results sa individual para one-way lang ang results. It is the institution like hospitals and local health units ang naga-release sang results,” she said.

In some cases, Abello said that there are samples that were rejected for failure to meet laboratory criteria.

May mga samples gina-reject because wala na-meet ang criteria like wala siya upod nga Covid-19 investigation form, or kon may ara, kulang siya,” she said.

There are also instances that the labels of the samples are unclear and not readable. Hence, repeat collection of the specimens is required, Abello added.

“This is to ensure nga ang samples nga i-run iya gid sang pasyente nga nakuhaan,” she stressed.

Based on the zoning of the health department, WVMC is also receiving specimens from Region IV-B and Masbate, apart from specimens in Western Visayas.

But due to logistic issues, Abello said the specimens from the two other regions areas are now being sent to Manila.

“We can receive specimens from Region IV-B and Masbate. Subong, due to logistics, mas mahapos sila makapadala sa Manila,” she said.

Abello said they aim to increase the capacity of the laboratory to run up to 1,000 tests per day.

“Our next plan is once mag-abot na ang automated RNA extraction machine diri padamuon namon ang capacity up to 1,000 tests per day,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jessie Glenn Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist of the Department of Health in Western Visayas -Center for Health Development in Western Visayas (DOH-CHD 6), said they are testing the patients based on the level of prioritization.

Ginatagaan naton priority first ang symptomatic or those showing signs and symptoms with travel history sa areas with cases; or cases with close contact sa symptomatic. Next, are health workers who are directly caring for the COVID-19 patients and close family contacts of the confirmed cases whether symptomatic and asymptomatic. Then, individuals nga may risk factors, such as pregnant, elderly, with co-morbidities, and persons with disabilities,” he said.

Alonsabe said they are also prioritizing repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the region.