MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday denied allegations that it is uncooperative with the Marikina City government on the certification process of the city’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) testing facility.

“Hindi po totoo na hindi namin tinutulungan ang city of Marikina. Tayo po ay nakaantabay sa kanila at nagbibigay ng technical assistance sa kanila nang simulan palang nila ang kanilang (It’s not true that DOH is not helping the Marikina City. We have been guiding them and providing them technical assistance since they started their) application for certification,” said DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in the Beat Covid-19 virtual presser.

Vergeire said Marikina’s Covid-19 testing center is currently in “stage 3” and still has certain requirements to comply with.

She added its workflow structure is “80 to 90 percent completed” but its personnel training has not started.

“Kahapon ng alas kwatro ng hapon, nakatanggap po tayo ng mensahe to assess the facility kaya dumating po kanina ang DOH at Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) kanina sa Marikina. Doon po ay nakita natin na naihanda na nila ang kanilang physical facility subalit hindi pa rin naka-install ang kanilang equipment at hindi pa naihanda ang training ng laboratory technician at personnel (At 4 p.m. yesterday (Monday), we received a request to assess their facility so the DOH and the RITM went to Marikina earlier. They saw that the physical facility is prepared but the equipment are not yet installed and they’re still preparing the training of their technician and personnel),” Vergeire said.

Earlier in the day, a team from the DOH headed by Dr. Mark Anthony Leviste from its Health Facilities Standards & Regulation Bureau conducted an assessment of Marikina City’s testing facility.

Following the inspection, Vergeire said the DOH team advised the city to enroll their laboratory technicians in an online course of the University of the Philippines-National Institute on Health within the week to prepare for the hands-on or practical training on biosafety by the RITM on Monday.

Earlier, RITM Director Celia Carlos said Covid-19 is highly contagious, hence, the need for a biosafety level 2 facility, laboratory technologist trained on biosafety and PCR procedures, regularly calibrated equipment and instruments, and well-established protocol on the quality assurance of test results.

“Hindi po ang DOH ang nang-iipit sa inyo, kami po ka-alyado ninyo sa laban na ito. Ngunit kailangan po natin ang siyensya at tamang proseso (The DOH is not keeping you from having your own testing center, we are your allies in this fight. But we need scientific and right process),” Vergeire said.

She added non-observance of these processes could pose harm to test samples and Marikina City residents.

Citing that there are 15 licensed Covid-19 testing centers mostly in Metro Manila, Vergeire urged the city government to send the swabs they acquired from tests to the nearest laboratory while waiting for the accreditation of their own center.

Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro earlier said the city’s Covid-19 testing facility will start operating on Friday even without approval from the DOH.

Teodoro said the testing center is in a 160-square meter building located in a less populated but accessible area along Bayan-Bayanan Avenue in Barangay Concepcion Uno.

He cited Section 16 of the Local Government Code which states that every local government units shall exercise the powers necessary, and appropriate in the promotion of general welfare and health of the public.

He also said pursuant to the Presidential Proclamation No. 922 which declares a State of Public Emergency in the country, LGUs are enjoined to mobilize necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate response and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the threat of Covid-19.

The DOH earlier rejected the first proposed location of the testing center at the laboratory of the City Health Office, saying that the facility should be located at a separate building before it can operate. (with reports from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)

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