The Manila city government now offers free chest X-ray for residents and non-residents following the implementation of the country’s first bidirectional screening and testing for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and Tuberculosis (TB).
The city government is already offering free reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests and isolation facilities in Sta. Ana Hospital and Delpan Evacuation Center Quarantine/Isolation Facility.
Patients can now avail of both the RT-PCR and chest X-ray at the same time in the said facilities.
The Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital (MCFH), on the other hand, has started sputum collection for rapid TB diagnostic testing among the admitted patients since the first week of September.
The initiative aims to promote lung health for residents of Manila and nearby cities through the “Kamusta Baga? (How are your lungs)” under the #TBFreePH campaign.
Individuals who are scheduled for RT-PCR test and do not show any respiratory symptoms such as cough, fever, or shortness of breath can also avail of the chest X-ray service.
It can be determined through the mobile X-ray equipped with computer-aided detection or artificial intelligence (AI) whether they have possible TB in just 5 to 10 minutes.
Individuals who are presumptive TB based on the chest X-ray results or who are showing respiratory symptoms regardless of duration are recommended to submit their sputum samples for TB confirmatory test.
If they tested positive for TB, their results will be given to partner health facilities and they will be scheduled for treatment initiation in their respective local government units.
“We want Manila to win the battle against COVID, but we don’t want to compromise our fight against other diseases such as TB. We need to address both if we really want our residents to feel safe and healthy,” said Dr. Maria Julieta Recidoro, Officer in Charge of Manila Health Department’s division on TB prevention and control.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a threat in “TB elimination programs” since 2020.
Based on the data from the National Tuberculosis Control Program Report of 2021 of the DOH, “only 256,848 new and relapse TB cases were detected in the country in 2020. This is 37.7 percent lower compared to 409,167 TB cases reported in 2019.”
The city of Manila was also reported “to notify only 4,205 new and relapse TB cases in 2020 versus 9,857 TB cases in 2019, a 57.7 percent decline in new and relapses notification.”
“COVID sets back the progress of TB by a decade, and we don’t want all of our efforts to go to waste. This pilot bidirectional screening and testing in Manila will help us find individuals who have COVID and TB — an essential integration as we continue to provide TB services amidst this health crisis,” said Dr. Anna Marie Celina Garfin, Medical Specialist IV of the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau (DPCB), Infectious Disease Division of the DOH.
The initiative was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the TB Innovations and Health Systems Strengthening (TBIHSS) Project managed by FHI 360 and with field support from Innovations for Community Health (ICH).
According to the TBHIHSS, the bi-directional testing already screened about 1,204 individuals for chest X-ray in Sta. Ana Hospital and Delpan Quarantine/Isolation Facility and 401 individuals submitted their sputum samples to the MCFH and Sta. Ana Hospital as of September 30.