With the Department of Health’s promised P70 million allocation for an RT-PCR laboratory in Catanduanes still unrealized, the provincial government of Catanduanes is considering the offer of Motortrade Philippines to donate an RT-PCR machine for use in COVID-19 testing.
Last week, Governor Joseph Cua confirmed to the Tribune that given the lack of positive news about the DOH funding, he has asked concerned officials to look for available funding sources to come up with the P20 million still needed to set up the laboratory at a dedicated area at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center.
He said that the RT-PCR machine costs P2.7 million but its accessory equipment, devices and supplies will cost a lot more if the proposed testing laboratory is to pass the accreditation of the health department.
Late last month, the governor, Provincial Administrator Lemuel Surtida, Provincial Health Officer II Dr. Hazel Palmes, EBMC hospital chief Dr. Vietrez Abella and other officials discussed Motortrade’s generous offer with its president, Thomas Ongtengco, in a Zoom meeting at a Capitol conference room.
It was learned that aside from the machine itself, the proposed laboratory will need other equipment like a biosafety cabinet, freezers and others which are mandatory under DOH regulations.
The supplier’s representative assured local officials that the machine, which is already calibrated, can process 96 samples daily.
It likewise assured a response time of one to three hours from its technical support team should something untoward happen to the machine, 24 to 48 hours for the actual arrioval of technicians, and 45 to 90 days if spare parts are needed in the repair.
However, it said that the unstable power supply in the island needs to be addressed, particularly voltage fluctuations or power surges.
With reagents, consumables and disposable materials and supplies to cost around P800 per test, the cost of each RT-PCR test is estimated to be around P2,500.
The laboratory will also need a full complement of personnel, including a pathologist, with its Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures (MOOE) to cost the province about P5 million a month.
During the online meeting, Motortrade’s Ongtengco reminded the provincial officials that it would not be a small amount to set up the other requirements of the RT-PCR lab.
He asked if it would be better to give the RT-PCR machine to the DOH’s Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory (BRDRL) at the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital (BRTTH) if the proposed local lab would not be feasible for the province, considering that it still has a low number of coronavirus cases due to its relatively small population compared to other Bicol provinces.
The machine could be donated to the BRTTH to add capacity to its laboratory if it can give additional slots to Catanduanes and assure the release of results within five hours.
“It would be a better option,” Ongtengco stressed. “Baka mas malaki pa ang ipo-provide ng provincial government in setting up the lab and running it.”
However, he emphasized that Motortrade’s intention to help Catanduanes is still there.
Administrator Surtida, in speaking for the governor, told the Motortrade executive that the province will not close the door on the proposed donation and appreciated its generous offer.
Established in 1969 as Bicol Supply Center in Daet, Camarines Norte, Chinese-Filipino migrant Vicente Ongtengco initially offered motorcycle spare parts and hardware components. In the years that followed, the business grew and then focused on motorcycle retail and subsequently became Motortrade Nationwide Corporation a decade later.