By Glazyl Masculino
BACOLOD CITY – Mayor Evelio Leonardia is appealing to the Department of Health (DOH) to consider putting up a testing center for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) here, as soon as possible, in the light of the global threat of the viral pandemic.
Leonardia made the urgent appeal to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in a letter dated March 20.
Leonardia said in the letter that, “inasmuch as Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Metro Manila is the only biolab in the Philippines now that can read the “swab” samples from Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) and Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) of COVID-19, we do not get the results until several days after.”
The intervening travel days to RITM contribute to this longer turn-around time, he added.
The local chief executive said that biolabs will be put up soon in Cebu and Iloilo to also provide the Visayas region with the testing capability for viral infections.
He, however said that it would be highly inconvenient for the city to still send the sample specimens to Iloilo and Cebu, considering the lack of transport facilities triggered by the ongoing border quarantine lock-downs at this time.
“Whichever government agency will be in charge of this facility, the city will be willing to contribute to the construction cost thereof and for the training of lab technicians from the city that will help operate it,” the mayor said.
Also, Leonardia requested for 1,000 universal transport medium (UTM) “swab” test kits for COVID-19 from the DOH.
“While we know that these kits cannot be bought anywhere else in the country, but can be sourced out from the RITM through DOH, we have no other alternative but to beg for these supplies directly from you because our present need is great and urgent,” he said.
He noted that Bacolod has 11 PUIs and more than 1,000 PUMs.
Recently, DOH-6 reported the first positive COVID-19 case in the city, making it also as the first confirmed case in Western Visayas.
“With these statistics, it is quite possible that the actual number of positive cases could be more but this remains a matter of speculation only because our city has no supply of the “swab” kits to test potentially positive patients,” Leonardia said.
“This is very alarming for us and could compromise the health and safety of our people despite the usual preventive measures taken,” he added.
The DOH has recently provided 100 “swab” kits here but only 20 of these were allocated for the City Health Office (CHO), with the rest to be shared among the regional hospital here, the province of Negros Occidental, and as buffer stock.
“This is heartbreakingly inadequate, he said.
“While we understand that your sourcing of these kits is also strained due to the need for it in Metro Manila and Luzon, we asked for your help to provide us these kits as soon as possible,” he added.