PRC says PhilHealth members can’t avail of saliva test just yet

Published January 31, 2021, 3:15 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

Officials of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) revealed Sunday that members of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) cannot take advantage of its saliva COVID-19 PCR test because it is not yet included in its benefit package. 


PRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said they have to yet secure the nod of the Department of Health (DoH) Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) before they can launch such test for public use.

“Nagtataka lang ako pinayagan kami ni Secretary Duque kaagad. Tapos ay may nakalimutan kailangan dumaan pala kayo dito sa tinatawag na Health Technology Assessment na matagal na nandun ‘yan nung Oct. 17, hindi ko sila tinutuligsa pero sana naman may konting sense of urgency,” he told DZMM TeleRadyo. 

(I am wondering why Secretary Duque immediately allowed us. Then, they forgot that we have to pass through the Health Technology Assessment which was already there since Oct. 17. I am not criticizing them, but there should be a little sense of urgency) 

“Ang sabi sa amin Health Secretary Duque, puwede na namin i-test, pero private use. ‘Yung pangkaraniwang mamamayan, huli na naman.”

(Secretary Duque told us we can test, but for private use. The ordinary people will be late to avail this) 

Gordon said he cannot help but be disappointed by the snail-paced action of the DoH. 

“Hindi naman tama na mabagal sila, kaya I call a spade a spade. So ‘yun ang magiging problem hanggang matapos sa HTAC, yung Health Assessment Council, ay puro muna private.”

(It is not right that they are slow, that’s why I call a spade a spade. That’s the problem, until the HTAC is done, the test is for private use) 

Last week, the PRC launched the saliva PCR test which costs around P2,000. 
Dr. Paulyn Ubial, head of the PRC Molecular Laboratory, disclosed that the saliva testing will be available next week in all laboratories of Red Cross in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. 

Currently, the saliva COVID-19 PCR test is only available in Metro Manila, she said. 

“Ang konting gusot po ay hindi pa sya kasama sa Philhealth benefit package. Karamihan ng kinokolekta na sample ay out of pocket,” she said.

(The problem we have encountered is that it is not included in PhilHealth benefit package. Majority of the samples we collected are out of pocket)

“Kung nakasama po sya sa PhilHealth benefit package, mas malawakan ang magiging testing natin,” Ubial said.

(If this will be included in the PhilHealth benefit package, our testing will be more massive)

The former DoH Secretary said in Metro Manila alone, they can conduct 8,000 tests per day. Currently, they only conduct 300 to 400 tests since the testing is out of pocket. 

“Sana maapprove na ng PhilHealth para magamit na ang full capacity dito sa Metro Manila.”

(We hope PhilHealth will approve this so that the full capacity in Metro Manila will be used)

Gordon noted that so far, the PCR has conducted a total of 1, 818, 401 COVID-19 tests.

He said they are expected to sign agreements Tuesday with mall owners on the conduct of saliva PCR tests in major shopping malls nationwide. Gordon said they are willing to go to barangays, factories, and even schools to conduct the tests. 

According to PRC chief, 879 volunteers from its 96 chapters have been trained to correctly collect the saliva samples.