Following complaints about the Department of Health's alleged snail-paced accreditation, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday decided to see for himself if the Marikina local government's COVID-19 testing facility should already be allowed to operate.
And the Health chief admitted being impressed by what he saw.
"Maganda by and large. It's one of the best laboratories I've seen. Mukhang magandang-maganda ang pagkakagawa," said Duque in a 24 Oras report on Friday, as he personally inspected the newly built facility.
"Sana maging modelo ito sa ibang local government units para mapaigting o mapalawig ang ating testing capacity," he added.
The report said the DOH is expected to issue its accreditation on Tuesday, after the proficiency tests for the facility's equipment, laboratory technicians, and medical technologists are completed on Monday.
After weeks of waiting for the DOH accreditation, Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro earlier in the week said he was bent on operating the testing laboratory even without a go signal from the Health department.
In his agency's defense, Duque explained why it was taking them too long to accredit the Marikina laboratory.
"Nagpapalawig tayo ng maraming laboratory. Minsan sa scheduling nagkaka-problema. Humihingi lang ako ng pasensya kung nagkaroon ng kaunting antala. Ang importante, nasunod na siguro ang biosafety, biosecurity protocols," he said.
Once operational, the facility can run 400 to 500 tests a day, equivalent to about 5 percent of the national target of 8,000 daily tests.
At the Marikina laboratory, polymerase chain reaction testing only takes three hours each before results become available. The results, however, would not be available until the following day because they still need to be certified by a molecular pathologist.
That, however, is still shorter than the usual five to seven days it takes for PCR test results to be available in other testing centers.
COVID-19 tests at the Marikina testing center are free of charge, though walk-in patients are not allowed.
Residents of Marikina who wish to get tested can call 0945-517-6926 or visit pilipinastele.vsee.me/u/marikina.
Non-Marikina residents are also welcome to get tested at the laboratory but their respective local government units will first have to coordinate with the Marikina government.
Mayor Teodoro said they are dedicating two ambulances to pick up swabs from quarantine centers or from those on home quarantine.
Dr. James Paul Garcia, a physician who had been assigned to monitor quarantined individuals at the New Clark City in Tarlac, said had the Marikina laboratory been accredited earlier, he would have been able to go home to his family much earlier.
Along with other health workers, Garcia - after leaving New Clark City onMarch 31 - decided to go straight to Marikina to undergo a quarantine just to be sure he is not infected.
He said they had to wait a full week before they were finally tested on April 8 because the Marikina laboratory was still not available. Their results came out a week later.
"Ang anxiety and doubt andiyan [while waiting for their results]. The waiting game will be shorter to know what results would come out [now that the Marikina lab will be finally opened]," he said. -MDM, GMA News