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Red Cross rushes Cebu City labs

Michelle R. Guillang

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The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) will rush the start of a new COVID-19 laboratory in Cebu which is now the new epicenter of the virus.

Four polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines, two RNA extractor machines and other equipment have been delivered on Friday via a Philippine Air Force C-130 craft.

PRC chairman and Senator Richard Gordon, the architect of the plan to put up COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country, said the endeavor will bring people back to their sources of income and jump-start the declining economy.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 will remain the priority.

“In the Philippine Red Cross, our goal is to have everyone tested so we can separate the people who are sick from the people who are not sick so they won’t contaminate,” Gordon said.

The new PRC lab in Mandaue City, northeastern part of Cebu, will be added to the three existing accredited laboratories in the city and increase the city’s daily testing capacity to 4,000 more.

PRC Cebu chapter administrator Atty. Maria Vera de Jesus said that the laboratory staff members including the medical technologists, pathologies, laboratory manager, and encoders have already completed their training.

“If we pass the proficiency test, then we’re good to go,” De Jesus said.

Specimen samples coming from the local government units and private companies, mostly business establishments, will be tested here.

“In fact, many private companies have already signed up for the testing. We will also accommodate samples from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and travel agencies,” the chapter administrator disclosed.

De Jesus shared that mass testing in barangays with reported high COVID-19 cases was done as early in April in Cebu.

The humanitarian group also sent 14 medical tents to solve the overcapacity and be able to accommodate more patients in Cebu hospitals.

Gordon said the tents will allow the medical health workers to attend to patients suffering from non-COVID-19 illnesses.

Because of the urgent response needed to control the COVID-19 cases, individuals dealing with other deadly diseases like cancer and tuberculosis and those undergoing dialysis sessions sometimes get less prioritized.

About 200 cadaver bags were provided as well to address the reported COVID-19 mortalities.

In addition, the PRC Cebu chapter conducts online art therapy under its psychosocial support program, De Jesus said.

This caters to patients aged 8 to 17 years old staying in isolation areas who are provided with drawing kits that they can use while the therapy is ongoing.

National Action Plan against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon cited the PRC for stepping up at the time when the country had a very low testing capacity.

“A very difficult challenge: hundreds of thousands of our countrymen and women returning from abroad which obviously posed a very great risk. During this time there was no laboratory that could take in the kind of volume that we had to go through. It was only the Philippine Red Cross that took on this challenge,” Dizon said.

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