The Palawan provincial government is exploring ways to set up a centralized COVID-19 testing laboratory center in Puerto Princesa City to speed up the examination of the specimens of persons under investigation (PUI).

Dr. Mary Ann Navarro, chief of the Provincial Health Office (PHO), said Monday morning to Palawan News in a phone interview that they initially thought of designating the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) as the centralized laboratory, but its management said it cannot take the special task due to some limitations such as “space requirement”.

Navarro said Camp General Artemio Ricarte Station Hospital (CGARSH) and the MMG-PPC Cooperative Hospital (Coop Hospital) have been suggested, but they are still assessing their viabilities for the planned COVID-19 testing laboratory.

“Nakipag-usap na kami, ito nga nag-online conferencing na kami with regional director (Dr. Mario) Baquilod and the experts ng DOH, ito nga ongoing — tapos with Dr. Melecio Dy din of ONP at saka yong sa licensing ng DOH — so, very stringent ang requirement sa pagkakaroon ng COVID-19 testing lab. Ang sabi ng ONP hindi daw nila kaya due to the space requirement at saka yong sa PCR machine nila, hindi compatible yon kasi pang-TB yong meron sila doon,” Navarro said.

“Yong plano nga ng city and province gagawa nga ng makeshift na laboratory and bibili ng machine at test kits. Ang ano lang noon, we have to make sure na tama yong check-up kaya humingi din ako ng help sa DOH para may expert sila na papuntahin dito para hindi tayo maanuhan ng risk sa pagpro-process ng machine na yon. So, dapat safe na safe at saka dapat nasa international standards din ng DOH para hindi maging danger sa atin, para hindi maging hazardous sa atin dito,” she added.

Navarro reiterated the CGARSH and the Coop Hospital as possible COVID-19 testing labs are not yet confirmed.

“Naghahanap ang city at ang province ngayon ng lalagyan. Ang suggestion ng DOH, puwede yong laboratory ng CGARSH — suggestion pa lang, ha. Suggestion pa lang ito at hindi pa final. Suggestion pa lang. At saka yong MMG-Coop Hospital isina-suggest din,” said Navarro.

Navarro said the DOH head of regulation and licensing, whose team regularly comes to check the compliance of the two hospitals, has said they are “possible” as testing labs.

She said health authorities are yet to make sure that they can be safe as lab centers for the coronavirus disease.

“Suggestions pa lang kasi we have to make sure na they will be safe,” she said.

Navarro believes that though the DOH requirements for the setting up of a centralized lab is “stringent”, they can be met by the city and province.

“I think kaya. Dapat kayanin natin kasi alangan naman na mag-se-send tayo ng specimen, kailangan i-eroplano pa natin. Maghihintay tayo palagi ng eroplano,” Navarro said.

The plan to set up a centralized testing center for COVID-19 in Palawan is indicated under Executive Order No. 53 which Governor Jose Alvarez issued Monday morning. (See attached documents)


Executive Order No. 53

The EO is about designating facilities in the province for the testing, quarantine, isolation, and treatment of persons under investigation (PUIs) and COVID-19 positive patients.

Under Section 1, (a) of the EO, chiefs of hospitals, hospital administrators, or heads, are directed to comply with the policies required in handling the PUIs and COVID-19 positive patients.

It said all PUIs with mild symptoms who do not need hospitalization but are possible carriers of the virus should be quarantined in the following:

  • For Southern Palawan – the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) Regional Evacuation Center in Brooke’s Point
  • For Calamianes Islands – the OCD Regional Evacuation Center in Coron
  • For Northern Palawan – the newly-constructed San Vicente Provincial Hospital

For patients from municipalities who were seen, treated, or admitted in facilities in Puerto Princesa, they will undergo 14 days quarantine in a facility that will be designated by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) before they return to their respective municipalities

The EO from Governor Alvarez recommends for the City Health Office (CHO) to also do the same in a facility it will designate before they return to their residences.

Also under Section 1. (b), facilities for treatment and isolation of PUIs with mild symptoms, non-elderly, and without co-morbidities, but need hospitalization, shall be admitted in the Provincial Government of Palawan (PGP) hospitals in Aborlan, Narra, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, Roxas, Cuyo, and Coron. If their conditions become serious, they shall be referred to the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) and the Culion Sanitarium General Hospital (CSGH) in the Calamianes Islands.

Isolation hospitals for COVID-19 confirmed patients with mild symptoms will be the following:

  • Bataraza District Hospital for southern Palawan
  • Roxas Medicare Hospital for northern Palawan

EO 53 said once a COVID-19 patient is transferred to any of these hospitals, non-COVID-19 patients should be immediately transferred to adjacent hospital facilities.

If COVID-19 patients show severe symptoms or critical conditions, they will be admitted to the Department of Health (DOH)-owned hospitals for treatment.

All non-COVID-19 patients will be admitted to hospitals not mentioned in the EO.


Heroes’ Pay

Health workers and others serving the frontliner, including contracts of service and job orders, shall be given “Heroes’ Pay”, but subject to the availability of funds.

It will be determined upon the approval of the available funds by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, said the EO.


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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.