Go seeks more testing labs, kits; backs appeal to help PUI nurses to get tested for COVID-19

March 31, 2020
Bong Go

SENATOR Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed support for the appeal of the Philippine Nurses Association to help nurses who are persons under investigations be tested for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Dapat lang namang i-test ang mga nurse at iba pa nating health workers dahil sila ang pinaka-kailangan natin sa laban na ito. Dapat natin silang alagaan upang maalagaan nila ang mga pasyente,” said Go, who serves as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

“Dahil exposed sila sa mga pasyente halos araw-araw, malaki ang posibilidad na mahawa sila kahit nag-iingat sila. Dapat din nating malaman agad kung negative o positive sila para maiwasan ang unnecessary quarantine. We need as many healthy nurses as we can get right now,” the senator added.

Go expressed his support after PNA National President Rosie de Leon made the appeal in an interview with DZBB early on Monday. “Ang pakiusap namin po, ‘yung mga nurses who will be considered PUI be given priority in the test,” de Leon said.

“‘Yung isa po naming chief assistance nurse, nakapila po. ‘Yun po ang pakiusap namin, lahat po ng PUI nurses be given priority kasi mahirap po ‘yun eh. Kung sila po ay naka-self-quarantine, pagkatapos po hindi naman natin ma-test kung talagang sila ay positive or not, made-deplete po ‘yung ating number ng health care workers,” she added.

Go also reiterated his call for the Department of Health (DOH) to capacitate more laboratories to perform COVID-19 tests and for the Food and Drug Administration to hasten the process of approving applications of testing kits.

“Mas mabuti kapag maraming maisagawang test para ma-identify natin ang mga lugar na kailangang i-monitor nang mas maigi at ang mga taong kailangang gamutin. Dapat mabilisang ma-isolate natin ang may COVID-19 para hindi na ito kumalat,” the Senator said.

Tests for COVID-19 are currently performed mostly in the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City, and the RITM has certified that five other hospitals “can perform independent testing” by real-time polymerase chain reaction.

The five hospitals include the National Institutes of Health Molecular Laboratory of the University of the Philippines and the four subnational laboratories of the DOH, namely, the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.

On Monday, March 30, the FDA approved a PCR-based test kit that can detect the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the total number of approved PCR-based test kits to eighteen. The FDA also approved the use of five rapid test kits, which measure the antibodies from a patient's blood samples.  FDA has already streamlined the process for approving COVID-19 test kit applications that the agency continues to receive.

Go emphasized the need for nurses to be tested for COVID-19, but he said that the right process should still be observed. “There’s an algorithm that determines who gets tested first. Sundin pa rin natin. Pero dahil dumadami naman ang available na test kits, let us give due consideration to the nurses who are PUIs given their critical role in defeating this virus.”

Earlier, Go requested the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management to provide proper compensation for volunteer health workers and equip them with personal protective equipment and other necessary items.

Go said that aside from compensating volunteer health workers, DOH must expedite the procurement of test kits, ventilators, PPEs, and other necessary tools to equip hospitals.

“Hindi lang naman po compensation ang issue dito. The best way to help the health sector respond to this crisis is by sufficiently providing them with the tools and protection needed to do their job,” Go stressed.

“Bigyan natin ng pansin ang mga reklamo ng ating frontliners – mga health workers, doctors at nurses. Pakinggan at tulungan natin sila dahil sila ang mas nakakaalam kung ano ang dapat gawin para matapos ang health emergency na hinaharap ng ating bansa,” Go added.