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Covid-19 testing lab in Bicol now operational

LEGAZPI CITY — The Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory (BRDRL) can now perform coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) tests after it passed the proficiency testing and received the certification from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) on Monday, April 6.

Dr. Ernie Vera, Department of Health (DOH)-Bicol regional director, in an interview on Tuesday said the certification means that the BRDRL can now conduct independent testing for Covid-19 through real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).

“This means that instead of bringing patient samples from Bicol hospitals to the RITM, these samples will now be processed at the BRDRL. This will shorten the waiting time for laboratory results of Covid-19 patients,” he said.

Vera said the testing capacity of BRDRL is 30 samples per day since the laboratory has only one PCR machine.

“The DOH Center for Health Development (CHD)-Bicol would like to reiterate that at the moment, the laboratory will only receive samples from referral hospitals and other hospitals with Covid-19 patients cleared by the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) as per Department Circular No. 2020-0107 dated Mar. 7, 2020,” he said.

BRDRL is open from Monday to Friday to receive samples and until Saturday to do the testing, while Sunday is reserved for decontamination.

Vera said the cut-off for receiving samples from Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon is at 12 noon while for those from Catanduanes, Masbate and Camarines Norte, the cut-off is 3:00 PM.

“The BRDRL staff is not trained to collect samples from PUIs (patients under investigation) hence, will not entertain walk -in clients,” Vera said.

The DOH-Bicol is looking for ways to increase the testing capacity of the laboratory through procurement of additional PCR machine and other necessary equipment and materials.

To be prioritized for testing are PUIs and those belonging to the high-risk group such as senior citizens, persons with co-morbidities and those with severe respiratory symptoms.

Other laboratories at BRDRL include those for tuberculosis, public health, water, the Bicol Regional Public Health Entomology Laboratory and Bicol Regional Blood Center, which are all operational.

The molecular laboratory for Covid-19 testing is isolated from other laboratories in the facility to prevent contamination. (PNA)

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