Lawmaker cites red tape in Covid-testing machines


DUE to bureaucratic red tape, a lawmaker on Sunday said 700 testing machines capable of detecting the Covid-19 virus in 45 minutes remain largely untapped amid the health crisis.

Anakalusugan Rep. Michael T. Defensor was quoted in a statement as saying that the machines were donated by GeneXpert. A search shows GeneXpert as a system owned by American molecular diagnostics company Cepheid Inc., a subsidiary of the Danaher Corp.

“The automated units, once brought into play, can easily triple to almost 1,000 the country’s Covid-19 testing laboratories and improve in a big way public access to screening services,” Defensor said.

According to the lawmaker, the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria donated the bulk of the country’s inventory of the machines to the Department of Health (DOH) to help in the rapid diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) cases, including multidrug-resistant TB.

“Many of the GeneXpert units are already installed in the TB diagnostic laboratories of public hospitals, and they can also be used for Covid-19 testing,” Defensor said.

“The problem, as usual, is bureaucratic red tape, as if we are not in the middle of a public health emergency,” Defensor said.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued guidance that existing TB laboratories may also function or double as Covid-19 testing sites, Defensor said the DOH’s Health Facilities and Services Licensing Bureau is saying they must undergo separate licensing for coronavirus-screening anyway.

“The DOH should harness all our GeneXpert machines to help put a downward pressure on the elevated cost of Covid-19 testing services offered by private laboratories,” the lawmaker said.

Meanwhile, Defensor said the DOH is getting another P5.1 billion for “Covid-19 Laboratory Network Commodities” in the 2022 national budget.

The lawmaker said the country currently has only 287 licensed public and private Covid-19 testing laboratories: 118 in Metro Manila, 80 in the rest of Luzon, 43 in the Visayas and 46 in Mindanao.

“But if the DOH will simply mobilize all our GeneXpert units for Covid-19 testing, then there may be no need for the government to buy additional RT-PCR machines,” Defensor said.

“All that the DOH has to do is procure the cartridge-based Xpert Xpress SARS-Cov-2 test kits for use in the GeneXpert machines,” the lawmaker was quoted in the statement as saying. 

Read full article on BusinessMirror

Leave a Reply