Marikina gov’t OKs COVID-19 testing facility sans DOH’s approval. Here’s why.

April 14, 2020 - 9:26 PM
Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro
The testing laboratory in Marikina City (Photo from Marikina PIO via Facebook)

Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro’s decision to open the COVID-19 testing center in the city on Wednesday made his name trending anew on local Twitter as he gets praises for his fervor to help his constituents during the pandemic.

Teodoro cited the “general welfare” provision under the Local Government Code as the reason for refusing to wait for the Department of Health’s accreditation and pushed through with running the COVID-19 testing facility, which was built inside a two-storey building.

This provision was specifically stated in the Section 16 of the Local Government Code.

“Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare,” the provision read.

Teodoro’s initiative for his constituents was then talked about on social media platforms Twitter and Reddit. His nickname “Mayor Marcy” eventually made it to the top trending list of Twitter Philippines.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

“Mayor Marcy is really out there fighting for Marikina. Graber in talaga yung government bureaucracy at the expense of the people’s lives,” one user said.

One Reddit user, meanwhile, said that the health department should have just coordinated with the Marikina city government.

“Yung testing center ba ng Marikina ay nasa seperate building na? Instead of making things difficult, dapat nakipag ugnayan ang DOH sa Marikina. May initiative na, support ang kailangan hindi bottleneck ng bureaucracy,” the user said.

Another online user also questioned DOH’s reason for not approving the laboratory even after Marikina officials have already conformed to the standards they have set.

“Ano pa ba issue ni DOH jan? Alam ko last time, issue nila is yung kakayahan ng facility in handling the live virus samples na hindi mag leak outside the facility,” the user said.

Teodoro initially proposed a floor within the city health office to be converted into a testing facility.

However, the DOH immediately did not approve the proposal and told him that the testing center should be outside the public health office as part of the biosafety requirements.

The local mayor then chose a new building along Bayan-Bayanan Avenue in Barangay Concepcion Uno to be converted as the city’s own detection facility.

This structure has a floor area of 160 square meters and is located in an area with no other offices or people within the space.

Teodoro also said that the proposed facility has two PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machines and can process up to 400 samples daily.

Testing laboratory accreditation stages

According to the DOH, the accreditation for testing laboratories has the following five stages:

  1. Self-assessment
  2. Self-validation
  3. Personal training
  4. Proficiency testing
  5. Full scale implementation

As of March 30, there are only six facilities that completed the five stages, namely, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the Philippine General Hospital, the San Lazaro Hospital, the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, the Southern Philippines Medical Center, the Baguio General Hospital and the UP-NIH.

The health department recently announced that they would be conducting 3,000 tests per day starting April 14 due to its recently expanded testing protocol.

“The mass testing that we’re planning is targeted. We need to prioritize the vulnerable members of the population such as pregnant women, those who are immunocompromised, and our front line health workers who have the highest exposure to the virus,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

Friday deadline for inspection

Shortly after Teodoro announced his initiative to open the local laboratory, a team of DOH inspectors arrived to finally check the place.

Teodoro recalled that it was the Marikina officials who asked the DOH to inspect the new facility.

However, the state health agency did not provide the mayor a feedback and only told him to submit an inspection report before the much-awaited license can be given.

By Friday, Teodoro said the health department should have shared to him the necessary recommendations and changes for the testing center to be accredited.

The health crisis in Marikina doesn’t have time for DOH’s bureaucratic processes, Teodoro said.

“Namamatay ang mga tao, hindi nila nate-test. Walang kapasidad, kulang na kulang ang testing center sa bansa, malinaw ‘yan… Minabuti naming magkaroon ng initiative dahil dumadami ang kaso namin ng COVID-19 dito sa Marikina at malaking kasalanan sa tao, tingin ko, kung saan wala kang gagawin,” Teodoro told CNN Philippines’ “Balitaan.”

DOH ready to assist Marikina City

Despite this, Vergeire defended the DOH’s disapproval of the COVID-19 detection facility and denied that it is not helping the city governor.

Vergeire maintained that Marikina City should follow the accreditation process, citing that it is still on Stage 3. She also said that the laboratory technicians should undergo training first.

The DOH officials said upon the agency’s inspection, it learned that equipment of the testing center have yet to be installed.

“Hindi po ang DOH ang nang-iipit sa inyo. Kami po ay kaalyado ninyo sa laban na ito,” the health undersecretary said during the Tuesday press briefing.

Vergeire said it is ready to provide technical assistance to Marikina City.