By Freddie Velez and Carla Deña
The provincial governments of Bulacan and Laguna recently announced the inauguration on Thursday (June 25), in separate events, of the Bulacan Medical Center’s (BMC) GeneXpert laboratory and the Laguna Molecular Laboratory and the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Laguna Provincial Hospital – San Pablo City District Hospital (LPH-SPCDH).
Both will serve as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing facilities.
BMC’s GeneXpert laboratory, which is fully owned and operated by the Provincial Government of Bulacan, can produce 48 coronavirus test results in one day.
It received its license to operate last Saturday (June 20) and was inspected by Governor Daniel R. Fernando on Wednesday (June 24) to ensure that everything is in order before they start accepting samples.
“This facility will help us hasten the testing process para mas madali nang ma-identify ‘yung mga positive at mapagbuti ‘yung contact tracing (to make it easier to identify positive cases and to do a good job of contact tracing).
“The purpose of testing is to separate and quarantine those who have contacted the virus from the bigger population that does not have it. We will have a better picture of the extent, severity, and location of those infected and can act accordingly to safeguard the public,” Fernando said.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Hjordis Marushka Celis said that all the laboratory personnel are trained in biosafety and biosecurity and the use of the GeneXpert machine, and have passed the competency assessment, written proficiency, and practical exams.
“Bulacan is very fortunate to have this kind of facility at tayo lang ang isa sa pinakaunang nagkaroon nito sa buong rehiyon… (and we are among the first in the whole region to have this),” Celis said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bernadette Espiritu, the pathologist who will man the laboratory, said there is a reduced risk of contamination with the use of the machine because the samples are just loaded into it.
The machine has been in the province since 2015 to cater to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis patients.
She also said the machine produces speedy and accurate results.
“Mabilis siya kasi ‘pag sinabi niyang negative, it’s really negative; ‘pag positive, talagang positive. Connected na rin ‘yung printer (It’s fast because when it says negative, it’s really negative; when positive, it’s really positive. And the printer is connected to it already [for speedy printing of results],” Espiritu explained.
Espiritu said the machine will also be used to test for diseases other than COVID-19, such as tuberculosis, HIV, and hepatitis B and C, adding that they are expecting another GeneXpert machine from the DOH.
Meanwhile, the Laguna Molecular Laboratory is waiting for official accreditation from the Department of Health (DOH).
“Sa kasalukuyan ay nasa Stage 4 na ng accreditation process ng Department of Health ang Laguna Molecular Laboratory at may ilang testing pang kailangan gawin para maging fully operational na ito (At present, the Laguna Molecular Laboratory is under the stage 4 of DOH’s accreditation process and a few more tests are needed before it becomes fully operational),” Governor Ramil Hernandez wrote on his Facebook page.
At the inauguration, Hernandez thanked Laguna’s frontliners for their sacrifice and dedication. He also assured the public that the provincial government is doing all it can to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
As of June 25, Laguna has recorded 692 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 497 recoveries and 47 mortalities.