MOA for laboratory in DavNor signed
HEADS of public and private agencies signed a memorandum of agreement at the Davao del Norte provincial capitol on 19 May 2020 for the “go-ahead” of the funding and construction of a COVID-19 diagnostic laboratory in Tagum City.
Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib and Tagum City Mayor Allan Rellon signed on behalf of the local government units. Dr. Bryan Dalid represented the Davao Regional Medical Center, the recipient of the COVID-19 lab. Chancellor Larry Digal signed for the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao, and Mr. Diego Suelto represented Mr. Dino Suelto of Maer Summit Konstrukt Company. Dr. Lyre Anni Murao, director of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC)Mindanao, was the witness to the agreement.
In the agreement, the provincial government of Davao del Norte, Tagum, Panabo, and Samal cities committed P12-million for the lab. DRMC, for its part, will oversee the construction, procure the supplies and equipment,
seek DOH approval, and operate the lab. Through PGCMindanao, UP Mindanao has provided training in molecular diagnostics for the DRMC personnel, has assisted in the lab design, will provide technical guidance and assistance in the operations, and will lend equipment for the lab as needed. Maer Summit agreed to provide technical expertise and construction services for the lab, following specifications set by the Department of Health. Maer also donated test kits to DRMC and a Polymerase Chain Reaction machine to UP Mindanao for use in the lab.
“This agreement is significant for UP Mindanao because Davao del Norte was the first to respond to our offer of assistance. We are now starting the construction of the COVID-19 lab. Hopefully, we will finish it by next month,” said Chancellor Digal. He also disclosed that UP Mindanao is now assisting three other groups in setting up COVID-19 testing laboratories.
When constructed, the COVID-19 lab in DRMC will aim for accreditation from the Department of Health to become a subnational testing laboratory for the identification of COVID-19 infections.
At present, the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City is the only subnational referral facility that can test for COVID-19 in Mindanao.
“Mindanao is a vast island of 23-million people. That is why we help capacitate other regions, so they also have their testing laboratories,” said Dr. Murao.
Mayor Rellon thanked UP Mindanao for the opportunity to have the lab set up in Tagum City. The Tagum City government has been providing transportation for DRMC personnel who are undergoing training in UP Mindanao. The trainees are also using testing kits donated by the Davao City Filipino-Chinese Community and the PCR machine that Maer contributed to UP Mindanao. Latagaw-Lamdag Society is also providing transportation for local volunteers during the training, and BS Biology batch 1997 contributed lunch for the 11-day practicals. The PGC-Mindanao also launched a donation drive for Personal Protective Equipment, disinfectants, and bleach, that received pledges from various donors.
Governor Jubahib had described the COVID-19 lab project as part of countermeasures to prevent the spread of the virus in the province. “COVID-19 testing is the priority of the lab, but the purposes also go beyond COVID-19,” said Governor Jubahib.
“The lab can also test for other infectious diseases that are a concern in the region, or Mindanao,” said Dr. Murao.
Davao del Norte province has eight municipalities and three cities, and a population of 945,764 as of the last census in 2010. According to the province website, Davao del Norte has 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19, nine recoveries, and two deaths, as of 20 May 2020.