MUNTINLUPA CITY–Following equipment bogs, shortage of hard to procure supplies, and an overflow of samples received over the past weeks, the Department of Health-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (DOH-RITM), announced a temporary downscaling to address multiple factors that have constrained its full delivery of COVID-19 testing services.
“This does not mean we will be closing our doors—we will still be accepting specimens from admitted patients within our testing zone for the five days of the laboratory operations scale down,” said RITM Director Celia Carlos, referring to the catchment areas assigned to the Institute which include Las Piñas, Makati, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Pasay, Pateros, and Taguig in Metro Manila; Batangas, Laguna, and Quezon in Region 4A; and Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, and Romblon in Region 4B.
To limit backlogs and prolonged turnaround time, RITM also requested Centers for Health Development (CHDs) in CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, and NCR to arrange out-patient testing referrals to activated COVID-19 laboratories, both public and private real-time PCR and GeneXpert facilities, within their respective regions for the mean time.
Prior the scale down, the Institute has also agonized to maintain its testing capacity of 2,000 specimens per day despite enduring a number of infected personnel since June. Presently, 31 of its workforce have tested positive for the disease. Ten remain symptomatic but stable, while the others are reportedly in their recovery state as they await the results of their repeat test.
“We wanted to consistently deliver our best despite the mounting challenges, but it was at the expense of our weakening manpower. If our machines can give for long periods of 24/7 high throughput testing, our people can be worn down as well. This scale down also provides us the opportunity to take care of our own,” explained the RITM Director.
Current infection control protocols in RITM include the reporting of the slightest flu-like symptoms. All personnel presenting any or related COVID-19 symptoms must consult with the Institute’s Employee Health Service (EHS) and isolate immediately. The EHS clinic is working
in full swing to attend to concerns raised by employees with regards to their physical and mental well-being. Baseline COVID-19 testing is likewise being performed for all RITM employees, including all newly-hired staff.
“Please bear with us for the next few days as we conduct full servicing of equipment, decontamination of facilities, and the urgent testing of our staff. These measures are being done to ensure that we are fully armed and healthy to continue performing our tests safely and accurately. It is an uphill climb responding to this public health emergency, but please trust that our commitment to serve does not waver,” Carlos concluded.
As per their earlier advisory, the laboratory scale down shall be effective until July 18. Disease Reporting Units (DRUs) are reminded that the daily specimen limit will be strictly observed once RITM resumes its full laboratory operations.