Bulacan COVID-19 testing lab formally opens

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Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando (third from right), Dr. Hjordis Marushka Celis, Provincial Health Officer II (2nd from left), together with some public officials, lead the inauguration of the first Covid-19 testing laboratory in Malolos City on Thursday (June 25, 2020). Known as the Bulacan Medical Center GeneXpert RT-PCR Laboratory, it is located at the compound of the government-run Bulacan Medical Center in Malolos. (Photos by Manny D. Balbin)

CITY OF MALOLOS, Bulacan – The first rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory in this province was formally opened on Thursday (June 25) as part of efforts to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

The Bulacan GeneXpert RT-PCR Laboratory, located at the compound of the government-run Bulacan Medical Center here, is fully owned and operated by the provincial government.

It received its license to operate last Saturday.

Governor Daniel Fernando, Dr. Hjordis Marushka Celis, Provincial Health Officer II, and pathologist Dr. Bernadette Espiritu, led the opening ceremony which was also attended by other local government officials, as well as public and private health officers, among others.

Fernando said the facility will help them hasten the testing process for easy identification of positive Covid-19 cases and at the same time, improve the contract tracing process.

“The purpose of testing is to separate and quarantine those who have contracted the virus from the bigger population that do 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,” he said.

The governor said 48 tests can be done in the laboratory on a 12-hour duration.

He said the GeneXpert machine can simultaneously analyze four samples or specimens per 45 minutes of running time.

Celis, who will lead the laboratory personnel, said all staff who will man the laboratory are trained in biosafety and biosecurity and passed the competency assessment, written proficiency, and practical examinations.

“Bulacan is very fortunate to have this kind of facility at tayo lang ang isa sa pinakaunang nagkaroon nito sa buong rehiyon kasi ang requirement ay dapat BSL2 (Biosafety Level 2), ang laking tulong nito sa pag-test. This is a big help in the testing. The license was issued last June 19, but was emailed to us June 20,” she said.

Meanwhile, Espiritu said the PCR machine can finish processing a specimen up to the printing of result in just 45 minutes.

“Ang maganda dito ‘yung fear of contamination is very minimal kasi pagdating sa sample niloload mo na lang siya, meron siyang four modules, since 45 minutes lang ang running time, technically 48 ang magagawa natin every day, ang running namin is 12 hours,” she said.

Espiritu noted that the machine has been in the province since 2015, being used in the treatment of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis patients.

She added that they are expecting another GeneXpert machine from the Department of Health (DOH).

“It’s only the DOH na merong ganitong cartridge. Kaya hindi natin kailangan bumili, binibigay lang kasi kasama sa program nila. So, the more na cartridges na nagamit namin mas marami ‘yung ibabalik nila sa amin. Mabilis siya kasi ‘pag sinabi n’yang negative it’s really negative. Pag-positive talagang positive. Connected na rin ‘yung printer. Di ba maraming OFW na stranded, they can avail of this. Mas mabilis kesa sa pipila pa sila sa PCR,” Espiritu said.

Apart from Covid-19 swab samples, she said they will continue to do tests for other diseases. (RONDA BALITA Online)

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