CRMC gets accreditation as first Covid-19 testing lab in BARMM

COTABATO CITY — The Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) has been issued a license to operate the first-ever testing laboratory for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The Department of Health (DOH) accredited CRMC to perform rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests using the GeneXpert machine that is also used for testing tuberculosis patients.

"We are using GeneXpert Xpress, a Food and Drug Administration - approved RT-PCR testing kit acceptable confirmatory testing for SARS-CoV-2 that can run the test in 45 minutes," said Dr. Helen Yambao, CRMC chief of hospital, during a press conference here Wednesday.

Yambao said the hospital's Department of Pathology has complied with all requirements to become a licensed, independent hospital-based Covid-19 testing sub-national laboratory.

She said the hospital was earlier inspected by the DOH central office, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, World Health Organization, and DOH 12 Regulation, Licensing, and Enforcement Division.

The BARMM government provided a PHP14.1-million fund for the procurement and upgrading of medical and laboratory supplies to carry out diagnostic testing for Covid-19.

"We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the BARMM, particularly to the chief minister Ahod ‘Murad’ Ebrahim, health minister Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan, and other ministers who made this project successful," she said.

Ebrahim vowed to make BARMM a partner of health institutions, as the region also looks forward to expanding the same assistance to other areas in the region.

"We congratulate the CRMC on their recent accreditation as a sub-national testing laboratory for Covid-19. This will greatly help the BARMM and Region 12 as we adopt the national strategy of D.I.T.R or detect, isolate, treat, and reintegrate." Ebrahim said.

On May 13, Ebrahim and Yambao signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the PHP14.1-million fund allocation.

Under the agreement, CRMC will utilize the fund for the procurement of medical, laboratory supplies and reagents; improvement or renovation of the hospital laboratory; salary of contractual laboratory personnel; training of personnel; and maintenance and other operating expenses.

Yambao said an additional bio-rad machine, a conventional machine for PRC confirmatory test, has been procured through the fund.

She said the Covid-19 testing laboratory "will be accepting specimens of patients, especially for Region 12 and BARMM".

Yambao noted though that CRMC would not accept specimens from walk-in patients or those directly referred by local government units, other hospitals, and clinics.

“Only specimens from suspected or probable Covid-19 cases are accepted, and priority testing will be done to those critical cases and repeat tests for monitoring of Covid-19 positive cases," she said.

The CRMC laboratory will accept specimens from the RESU (Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit) of DOH-12 and the Ministry of Health - BARMM, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, including weekends and holidays. (PNA)

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