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Naga to set up Covid-19 lab in 20-footer container van

3d Model of PCR Room Interior. City Engineer's Office

NAGA CITY --- A Covid-19 testing laboratory in a refurbished 20-footer container van will soon be operationalized by the city government of Naga to obtain speedy results of tests and the capability to conduct mass testing.

That is, if the idea of Engr. Alexander Caning, head of the City Engineer’s Office will have its way. Caning was instructed by Mayor Nelson Legacion to design a structure in which a molecular diagnostic laboratory equipped with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine will be housed.

But City Health Officer Butch Borja, MD, who heads the medical cluster of the city’s Incident Management Team, said that no finality has been arrived yet regarding this matter, saying that the idea will still be deliberated upon with the city mayor and other members of the IMT this week.

In Caning’s idea, the city government will procure a freight container that is 6 meters in length, with a width of 2.3 meters, and 2.4 meters in height enough to accommodate the medical apparatuses and equipment being required of a DOH-standard molecular lab.

The proposal for a city-owned testing center was endorsed by City Councilor Sonny Rañola, M.D. to Mayor Nelson S. Legacion who immediately directed Caning to explore the possibility of constructing a building for such purpose.

“Taking cognizance of the urgency of time, we propose to the city mayor to purchase a unit of container van which costs less than a million pesos only. The facility, which can be readied for equipment installation in a matter of 10 days, is mobile and can be transferred from one location to another,” says Caning.

The city government, if opted to construct a building for the lab, will spend around P25-M, apparatuses and equipment included.

Dr. Jose Manuel T. Rañola, infectious disease specialist and point person for Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases (EREID) at the Bicol Medical Center, said the project is not an ordinary diagnostic laboratory as it has special rooms and equipment of a molecular lab that is compliant with the standards of the Department of Health.

Among the medical apparatuses that should be installed inside the laboratory is the PCR machine or thermal cycler, a laboratory apparatus most commonly used to amplify segments of DNA via the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory, which is responsible for the development and performance of molecular diagnostic tests for nucleic acid targets found in a variety of settings in medicine.

“It should also have negative room pressure manned by trained personnel and a clinical pathologist with training in molecular laboratory,” Rañola said.

Negative room pressure is an isolation technique used in hospitals and medical centers to prevent cross-contamination from room to room. It includes a ventilation that generates “negative pressure” (pressure lower than of the surroundings) to allow air to flow into the isolation room but not escape from the room, as air will naturally flow from areas with higher pressure to areas with lower pressure, thereby preventing contaminated air from escaping the room.

The technique is used to isolate patients with airborne contagious diseases such as: tuberculosis, measles, chickenpox, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), flu, and Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

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