By Betheena Unite
The Department of Health said Monday it will license more laboratories and include more individuals for testing by the end of July to bridge the gap between the rated and actual capacity of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests done in the country.
A gap between the rated and actual capacity of laboratories in processing COVID-19 tests remains due to a number of factors, the agency reiterated.
Operational issues in every laboratory, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, have been creating the gap between the expected capacity and actual capacity of a laboratory.
“Ito pong mga operational issues natin, logistics-wise napakalaking bagay po sa amin. Mayroon ho tayong current international shortage on the different logistical supplies na kailangan ng isang laboratoryo na hindi ho madaling makuha sa panahong ito (Operational issues, logistics-wise is a big deal for us. We have a current international shortage on different logistical supplies needed by a laboratory that we can’t acquire easily at these times),” Vergeire said.
More laboratories, tests by end of July
The Health department aims to bridge the gap by approving more laboratories by the end of July. They aim to license about 60 to 65 laboratories in order to test 1.5 percent of the population by the end of July.
The Philippines’ current rated capacity is at 50,000 with 59 operational licensed laboratories but the health official explained anew that this can’t be the actual numbers due to issues on health human resources, operating hours of a laboratory, and the maximum capacity of the facility based on its resources such machines and equipment.
These issues will then result to a backlog.
“As of yesterday, actually we have a total of about 2,200 backlogs in our laboratory, we lowered it to just 500. It’s just that with these operational issues that we encounter daily, talagang hindi po maiwasan na mayroon po talagang nagkakaroon ng bottleneck (we cannot avoid having bottlenecks),” Vergeire said.
Strategies for improved testing
The department, she said, had come up with strategies in order to achieve “stable outputs per day and hopefully we can reach this goal of having 1.5 percent of the population tested by the end of July.”
Centralizing the procurement of medical supplies and equipment to expedite the procurement process has been enforced to take away the burden from the laboratories in dealing with negotiations.
Emergency hiring has also been conducted, including the hiring of encoders, which is a vital part in fixing the data to provide real-time information to the public on the pandemic.
“We have now strategies to bridge the gap between the actual and rated capacity of laboratories. First, we need to increase the samples processed by laboratories by adding the sub sector E and sub sector F in our expanded protocol guidelines,” Vergeire said.
These sub sectors include other frontliners like barangay health emergency response teams, social workers and the vulnerable individuals like those undergoing surgery, pregnant women, those undergoing dialysis, chemotherapy, among others.
“So expectedly, there will be an increase in the samples that will be submitted to our laboratories,” Vergeire said.
“We need to stabilize our supply,” Vergeire said. “We really need partnerships with the private sector and of course we need appropriate sourcing of these supplies from our international suppliers in order to have continuous supply for our laboratories.”