RITM clarifies SOP on receiving samples

MUNTINLUPA CITY—The Department of Health-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (DOH-RITM) dispelled rumors surrounding the alleged non-acceptance of specimens collected from individuals unregistered with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). The national reference laboratory asserted that all its COVID-19 testing activities, from receipt of specimens until release of results, are performed in accordance with interagency directives.

The move of RITM to require submission of CF-2 PhilHealth forms upon referral of specimens is in compliance with the DOH memorandum and the PhilHealth issuance on claiming benefits in relation to COVID-19 hospitalization and testing. The paperwork may seem laborious to the field personnel, but if it is for the benefit of the public that we serve, I believe we can all agree that this is worth doing,” said RITM Director Celia Carlos.

Since May 18, RITM has been requiring properly accomplished CF-2 forms. The hospitals and Disease Reporting Units (DRUs), as the primary accountable party in collecting and forwarding specimens, are responsible for accomplishing the said forms. For non-members of PhilHealth, DRUs advise these patients to fill-out the PhilHealth Registration Membership Form (PRMF) and submit a government-issued ID. RITM will then assist in their PhilHealth enrolment. Once enrolled, patients would be able to avail not just the benefit claims for testing, but hospitalization and other benefits offered by PhilHealth as well.

We regularly apprise hospitals and DRUs regarding internal and national issuances on COVID-19 testing as they develop. These updates come daily because we want everyone to be fully informed and appreciative of why all these forms are necessary. At the end of the day, our priority is the health of the public, the delivery of accurate results, and the protection of everyone’s right to claim benefits,” Carlos added.

As per PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0010 entitled “Benefit package for testing for SARS-CoV-2,” individuals classified as eligible for testing based on DOH guidelines, as well as all COVID-19 cases that require repeated testing, can avail of the benefit package. Non-members shall also be automatically covered, even without prior contributions, provided that they have completed the membership registration upon availment of the benefit. RITM emphasized that samples within its catchment zone are accepted for testing regardless of the patient’s status of PhilHealth membership.

If you are recommended for COVID-19 testing—or have already been swabbed—and you are yet to become a PhilHealth member, don’t worry, you will still be accommodated. To expand COVID-19 testing to more individuals from wider groups and locations, PhilHealth has made it more accessible for non-members to register at point of care. RITM, in turn, is fully ready and equipped to assist you in your PhilHealth enrolment,” Carlos reassured the public.

In an effort to further optimize and improve the workflow of the Institute for PCR testing of SARS COV-2, starting 15 June 2020, RITM will receive specimens submitted between 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. This will allow ample time to prepare the samples for PCR testing earliest the next day, and ensure that all levels of processing is within the 72-hour timeframe.

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