MMMH&MC now licensed to perform COVID-19 test

*Begins accepting specimens for testing from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. except for Thursday

By Ma. Joreina Therese A. Blanco

BATAC CITY, June 3, 2020 – Here’s good news to the health-conscious Ilocanos!

It’s “all systems go” for the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center (MMMH&MC) of this city after the Department of Health (DOH) gave the official go-signal to operate its independent testing laboratory for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), as part of the intensified effort to contain the spread of the disease.

Armed with the license to operate given by DOH’s Health Facilities and Services Regulatory Bureau, this foremost hospital in Ilocos Norte had started on June 2, 2020, the rapid PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests using the GeneXpert machine which is also being used for testing tuberculosis PCR and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) viral load.

Dr. Maria Lourdes K. Otayza, Medical Center Chief II of MMMH&MC, cited that this endeavor was made possible through the joint initiative of this medical institution and the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN).

“This endeavor is our answer to the nationwide demand for increase COVID-19 testing which made us develop our own biomolecular laboratory capability as well as procure alternative modes of PCR testing if available,” the hospital chief said.

John Michael Mugas, MMMH&MC admininstrative officer, reported that “PGIN donated to the hospital a PCR machine and other peripherals while the hospital procured counterpart equipment, supplies, biosafety equipment, and secured refresher training for its certified staff.”

Dr. Otayza said, “It took approximately two months to operate the laboratory following the protocols laid down by the World Health Organization and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and it turned out that the alternative GeneXpert technology got accredited first before the PCR.”

Dr. Otayza further shared that the hospital’s Department of Pathology and Laboratories-Molecular Biology Section needed to surpass a proficiency testing together with a competency assessment for the hospital to become a licensed hospital-based COVID-19 testing lab.

A blended learning training on “Xpert Xpress on SARS-CoV-2” was completed by some medical technologists and pathologists from the hospital. It was facilitated by the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory-Learning and Development Section last May.

Now that fully-operational on COVID appraisal, MMMH&MC said it will accept specimens for testing from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. except for Thursday.

“The turn-around time for the processing and completion of the testing is 24-48 hours counted from the receipt of the specimen in the laboratory,” Otayza explained.

The hospital has guidelines in place for priority cases to test based on existing guidelines set by the health department.

MMMH&MC is the second DOH-retained hospital to be accredited in Ilocos Region next to Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center in La Union, and the first to use GeneXpert technology for COVID-19 testing in Region I. (Ma. Joreina Therese A. Blanco/PIA Ilocos Norte)