Bangsamoro region secures first certified COVID-19 testing laboratory

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 21) – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao secured its first accredited COVID-19 testing laboratory on Wednesday.

The Department of Health-Central Office has selected the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) to perform reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in the region.

“We are using Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2, an FDA-approved RT-PCR testing kit, an acceptable confirmatory testing for SARS-CoV-2 and it can run the test in 45 minutes,” said CRMC Chief of Hospital Dr. Helen Yambao.

Yambao added the hospital was inspected by the DOH Central Office through the Health Facilities Services and Regulatory Bureau, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), World Health Organization, and the DOH Region 12 Regulation, Licensing, and Enforcement Division before giving the certification to be a COVID-19 testing laboratory.

The CRMC hospital chief also noted they will accept specimens only of suspected COVID-19 patients in BARMM and Region 12.

“We are not going to accept specimens from walk-in patients to CRMC, or directly referred by LGUs, hospitals, and clinics. Only specimens from suspect 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,” Yambao added.

Previous swab samples from the Bangsamoro region were previously sent to RITM in Metro Manila or to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.

The Bangsamoro government allotted ₱ 14.1-million for the procurement and upgrading of medical and laboratory supplies to prepare for the COVID-19 testing.

BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Al Haj Murad Ebrahim welcomed the accreditation of CRMC as a COVID-19 testing laboratory, hoping that it can be a big help in preventing the spread of the virus in the region.

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

As of May 1, the BARMM has no active COVID-19 cases. But it has 11 confirmed infections, along with four deaths and seven recoveries.

As per the DOH count yesterday, the country now has 13,221 confirmed COVID-19 cases together with 842 fatalities and 2,932 recoveries.