Uncertified test labs will expose public to harm -- DOH

THE Department of Health today warned the public that test laboratories without appropriate certifications will expose more people to undue harm.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that while everyone wants to have a faster testing process, it should not forego compliance with protocols set to protect citizens from harm, referring to the earlier pronouncement of the City Government of Marikina that it will operate its own testing laboratory even without DOH approval.

“The COVID-19 virus is highly contagious. That is the reason why we need a Biosafety Level 2 facility, laboratory technologists trained on biosafety and PCR procedures, regularly calibrated equipment and instruments, and a well-established protocol on the quality assurance of test results, if we are to conduct tests,” she explained.

Vergeire also disputed the allegation that DOH is not supportive of the Marikina City Government's efforts.
   
“This is not true. We want Marikina to succeed. So much so that since the beginning of their application for accreditation, the Department has provided the necessary technical assistance,” she assured.

The facility is in stage 3 of a 5-stage accreditation process. Last April 2, the City Government committed to finishing the requirements in two weeks. At today’s assessment by a team of DOH and RITM staff, it was found that while there was a physical facility ready, the biosafety equipment remained uninstalled and its personnel untrained to operate them.

The DOH also advised the City Government of Marikina to enroll their laboratory technicians in the online course offered by UP-National Institutes of Health and schedule their practical/hands-on training on biosafety with RITM on Monday.

In addition, the DOH Spokesperson recommended that in the meantime,  the City Government may also send its swab samples to its 15 laboratories, most of which are in Metro Manila.

“Hindi po nanggigipit ang DOH, kami po ay kaalyado nyo sa laban na ito,” she said.

The Department explained that the laboratory and biosafety process ensures protection and is not a hurdle for any local government unit's testing capability.

“The DOH is your ally in this COVID19 battle. It is imperative that we abide by our scientific processes to secure the safety of our fellow Filipinos in Marikina City,” Vergeire said.