Zamboanga del Norte inaugurates its own molecular laboratory

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DIPOLOG CITY – AFTER 10 months of waiting and more than a year of sending its specimen to neighboring provinces for covid-19 detection, Zamboanga del Norte province has finally inaugurated its own molecular laboratory at a government facility in Roxas town last April 15.

Dr. Joshua Brilliantes, Health Department’s Director for Region 9, Governor Roberto Y. Uy and Provincial Health Officer Esmeralda Nadela led in the inauguration that signalled the commencement of operations of “Molecular Diagnostic Testing Laboratory” under the Zamboanga del Norte Medical Center.

The laboratory, which is located at the Provincial Agri-Industrial Center in Upper Irasan, Roxas, would be processing specimen for “Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction” (RT-PCR) within 48 hours, much faster than the three days to a week of waiting in molecular laboratories in the cities of Pagadian and Zamboanga.

Earlier, Joey Bernad – Executive Assistant to the governor and Incident Commander of the province’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) against COVID-19 – said the province had already spent more than P30 million for the molecular laboratory.

The completion of the laboratory has been widely seen as overdue as the province experienced a spike in COVID-19 infections after Christmas and again this week, which in April 15 alone 46 were reported positive.

Nadela told reporters that RT-PCR testing costs P3,500, but this will be charged against PhilHealth or with Malasakit Center as an alternative source of medical assistance.

She added that those who are suspected of having COVID-19, “we will just ask for their papers and we will be the ones to coordinate and facilitate with the social workers of their local governments.”

The provincial health officer also said that the molecular laboratory would be open Mondays to Fridays, and Saturdays and Sundays would be open if there emergency cases that need laboratory results.

Although dismayed at first by the delayed completion of the molecular laboratory because of tedious government regulations and expensive laboratory equipment, Nadela expressed relief that the province can now detect COVID-19 by its own.

“We really need this laboratory,” Nadela said earlier about the RT-PCR testing, which is still considered the “gold” standard in testing COVID-19 in the Philippines. (Zorayda Eva Mustaril)

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