The City Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) has raised concern about the capacity of the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) to conduct continuous COVID-19 tests given its limited supply of cartridges needed to run tests from the laboratory’s GenExpert machine.

Lawyer Norman Yap, co-spokesperson of the city IATF-EID, told the City Council on Monday morning that the Ospital Ng Palawan’s (ONP) GeneXpert laboratory is now down to “about 90 cartridges” for its COVID-19 testing.

The projected number of cartridges would not meet the testing demands as the recent two persons deprived of liberty (PDL) ballooned the number of suspect cases, or persons considered to be close contacts, to at least 90.

“Over the weekend, the two PDLs yielded to 90 or more suspect cases. We believe that these are the priority,” Yap said.

“We need to recognize how limited really is the resources. Just over the weekend, we were told that our cartridges for RT-PCR swab are dwindling to a point that in the next two weeks if the rate of increase would continue at this pace, we will no longer have additional cases only because we can no longer test them,” Yap added.

Yap also told city policymakers that while they have made requests for the replenishment of their testing supplies, these are limited and the Department of Health does not consider the ONP lab as a “priority.”

“Requests are being made. There’s a pending request at the DOH regional office. The initial feedback was right now we’re not a priority,” Yap said when asked by the Council to update on the procurement of additional cartridges.

Romalyn Racho, regional head of Health Education and Promotion Unit of the Department of Health (DOH), in a separate message to Palawan News Monday, denied Yap’s claim and pointed out that at least 300 replenishment cartridges have already been dispatched to the ONP.

“Nasa forwarder na siya [cartridges] baka within today or tomorrow dumating na. On the way na ang cartridges, diretso na sa ONP,” Racho said.

Yap also added that the City IATF has decided to purchase a “COVID-19 testing container”, a mobile testing center, to boost the City’s testing capacity.

“A decision has been made two weeks ago by the city government to purchase a containerized testing facility including cartridges,” Yap added.

In MIMAROPA COVID-19 tally, Palawan led the region with the highest number of reported cases at 46, trailing behind is Occidental Mindoro with 45. Oriental Mindoro has recorded 27 confirmed COVID-19 cases, while Romblon and Marinduque both held six patients each, as of 3 p.m., Sunday (July 5).

(With a report from Jeshyl Guiroy)