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DOH denies restricting labs from releasing COVID-19 test results

The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday refuted a statement by Philippine Red Cross chief Senator Richard Gordon that laboratories are not allowed to release positive test results for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to the concerned individuals.

Gordon earlier said that at least one-third of more than 15,700 individuals who were found positive for COVID-19 by Red Cross laboratories had not yet been informed of their test results, citing protocol that requires permission from the DOH prior to release. 

The department said it “does not prevent or impose any restrictions to laboratories on the issuance of their results to patients, as this is in fact required of them under existing guidelines.”

“There is also no need to ask permission from the DOH to release results to patients as long as they abide by pertinent DOH issuances on the matter,” the DOH added.

Under DOH Administrative Order No. 2020-0013, health facilities and disease reporting units are mandated to designate a COVID-19 coordinator who must disclose the test results to attending physicians and/or the concerned individual.

“In any given setting, the responsibility of informing tested individuals or their physicians of test results falls with the laboratories,” the DOH said.

It also clarified that while laboratories are required to submit additional reports to surveillance units, this does not dispense with the mandate to inform individuals of their test results.

“All laboratory facilities shall provide official positive and negative results directly to patients and local government units through physical or electronic mechanisms, in order to facilitate immediate isolation, contact tracing, and other appropriate local actions,” the DOH said.

Gordon had warned that health authorities may have been “dangerously increasing community transmission” by allowing laboratories to send out only negative test results but relay positive ones to the DOH.

The senator also wrote a letter to the DOH regarding the matter on Monday.

The Philippines has 108 licensed laboratories that have tested over 1.9 million individuals as of August 16.

There are now 164,474 confirmed cases nationwide. —LDF, GMA News