PICC, World Trade Center to be turned into quarantine sites

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    The PICC lobby. The convention center will be converted into a quarantine center as the COVID-19 crisis continues. (Photo by picc.gov.ph)

    GOVERNMENT will convert the Philippine International Convention Center and World Trade Center in Pasay City, and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila into quarantine facilities amid the rising number of persons afflicted with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Tuesday.

    Nograles, concurrent spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), said in a virtual briefing that the Department of Public Works and Highways, in cooperation with private entities, will complete the work necessary to convert the PICC, WTC and RMSC and other similar facilities into “fully-functional quarantine facilities.”

    He also said all concerned government agencies have been directed by the task force to speed up the identification of establishments in their areas that can be used for quarantine purposes.

    He said the Department of Transportation, in coordination with the Department of Health, was also directed to look at some maritime vessels that can be converted into a “floating” quarantine facility.

    He said the Department of Tourism was tasked to identify hotels and similar establishments nationwide, which can be used by government as regional quarantine facilities. He said Bureau of Quarantine will assess the adequacy of the facilities to be identified by the DOT.

    Nograles said members of the DOH Centers for Health Development and the regional offices of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, local government units, and uniformed services, will form composite teams that will serve as personnel in quarantine facilities.

    Last week, the Department of Education expressed willingness to convert public schools into quarantine facilities.

     TESTING FACILITIES

     Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a press briefing, said 49 health facilities and laboratories are seeking DOH approval as testing facilities for COVID-19.

    Of the 49, only the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) is in Stage 4 (proficiency testing) out of the five-stage accreditation process of the DOH.

    This means the LCP laboratory may already accept COVID-19 samples, but will need to test five positive samples as confirmed by RITM before proceeding to a full-scale implementation.

    Five facilities, on the other hand, are at Stage 3 (personnel training), which means their personnel, who will operate the laboratory, will have to undergo a special three-day training at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

    The five are Western Visayas Medical Center, Bicol Public Health Laboratory, Victoriano Luna Hospital, St. Luke’s Medical Center – BGC, and St. Luke’s Medical Center – QC.

    Thirteen facilities are in Stage 2 (validation), wherein a team from DOH, RITM, and World Health Organization will conduct an on-site visit to check the correctness of the self-assessment, inform the laboratory of its deficiencies, with the facility needing to comply with the recommendations before proceeding to the next stage.

    These are the Makati Medical Center, Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Genome Center (UP Diliman), Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital, Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Medical Center, Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, Cotabato Regional Medical Center, The Medical City, Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center, Marikina City Health Office, Chinese General Hospital, and American Bio-Clinical Laboratories International.

    The remaining 30 facilities are only at Stage 1 (self-assessment), wherein the laboratory will conduct self-assessment using tools provided by RITM, such as access to the laboratory, design of the laboratory, use of laboratory safety equipment, administrative control and management, records and documentation, and personnel practices and training.

    The 30 facilities are Mindanao State University, Philippine Red Cross, UP PGH Medical Research Laboratory, University of Santo Tomas Hospital, Metropolitan Medical Center, Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital, General Emilio Aguinaldo Memorial Hospital, Southern Tagalog Regional Hospital, The Medical City – Clark, Batangas Medical Center, Western Visayas State University Medical Center, Northern Mindanao Medical Center, Xavier University, Polymedic Medical Plaza, Department of Agriculture Field Office, Philippine Genome Center (UP Mindanao), TB Reference Center CHD, Manila Doctors Hospital, San Pablo College and Medical Center, Maguindanao Provincial Hospital, Cotabato Sanitarium, Sulu Provincial Hospital, Datu Halun Sakilan Memorial Hospital, Lamitan District Hospital, Davao Regional Medical Center, Mariano Marcos Hospital & Medical Center, Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital, Lucena United Doctors Hospital and Medical Center, Asian Hospital and Medical Center, and Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings, Inc.

    Earlier, the DOH announced that five facilities are considered as sub-national laboratories after reaching Stage 5 (full-scale implementation), wherein the laboratories have been certified and allowed to process and test samples at full scale.

    The five are Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, San Lazaro Hospital, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Southern Philippines Medical Center, and UP National Institutes of Health.

    Vergeire said each of the five sub-national laboratories can process at least 200 samples a day.

    RITM, which is the National Reference Laboratory, is capable of testing 900 to 1,000 samples a day.

     FIRST IN, FIRST OUT

     RITM director Celia Carlos assured the public the institute is implementing the “first-in-first-out” policy in testing samples.

    “RITM processes and receives all samples that are fit for testing in our laboratory on a first-in-first-out basis. These do not need my go signal to proceed with the testing,” Carlos said.

    She issued the statement amid the text messages being circulated among infectious diseases specialists claiming that samples sent to RITM need her prior approval in order to be processed for COVID-19 confirmatory testing.

    “I do not screen who should undergo testing and who should not. It is within the discretion of the attending medical doctor to order the test,” she said,

    Earlier, the RITM came under fire for issues of “VIP testing,” wherein politicians and government officials were given special treatment in being tested for COVID-19. — With Gerard Naval