Butuan’s COVID-19 testing lab operational by end of June–health exec

The molecular diagnostic laboratory at the Butuan Medical Center (BMC) is expected to open by the end of the month to speed up the identification and treatment of patients infected with COVID-19 in the city. COURIER FILE PHOTO

A COVID-19 testing laboratory in Butuan City will be functional by the end of June.

According to Dr. Jose Llacuna Jr., regional director of the Department of Health (DOH) in Caraga, the laboratory at the Butuan Medical Center (BMC) will have a GeneXpert machine and a real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machine, which health authorities consider as the gold standard in COVID-19 testing compared to the rapid test kits.

The machines were purchased by the city government.

”Infrastructure is already halfway done. Hopefully at the end of this month the facility will be operational,” Llacuna said in an online press briefing on Sunday.

Once operational, the BMC’s testing capacity will speed up the identification and treatment of patients infected with COVID-19 in the city and neigboring provinces, Llacuna said.

To increase the testing capacity of the Caraga region, Llacuna also said the state-run Caraga Regional Hospital (CRH) in Surigao City, the Adela Serra Ty Memorial Medical Center in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur and the D.O Plaza Memorial Hospital in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur are also being eyed as COVID-19 testing sites.

To date, Caraga has no testing facility to confirm positive or negative COVID-19 cases. Samples taken from patients had to still be brought to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City. 

The distance that samples have to travel to be tested and the volume of swab samples being tested at the SPMC cause delays in the laboratory test results.

Earlier, Butuan Mayor Ronnie Vicente Lagnada underscored that establishment of the city’s molecular diagnostic laboratory was crucial in solving the health crisis prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Testing samples from persons suspected of having the COVID-19 and high-risk individuals will now be easier once the city government is given the green light by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) to do the tests, the mayor said.

As of Monday, Butuan, which is now under modified general community quarantine, has seven active COVID-19 cases after four had recovered.

There’s no COVID-19 death yet in the city. The number of cases in Butuan is relatively lower compared to national data. CLC

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