November 30, 2023

Thousands of real-time reverse transcription chain reaction (RT-PCR) test kits used to detect Covid-19 donated to the city government of Baguio and supposed to be used via a private diagnostic center were discarded after it expired less than a month after the donation.

Dr. Dave Taclobao, pathologist and in-charge of the operations of Parkway Medical and Diagnostic Center, has confirmed to the city council during its Dec. 14 session the medical firm received 50,000 RT-PCR test kits from the Department of Health-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (DOH-RITM) on Oct. 16.

However, they only used 1,000 of the 50,000 test kits because these expired on Nov. 5.

Taclobao said to be able to use as much of the kits as possible before it expired, they gave 24,000 of the test kits to the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center laboratory, but most of it were returned to them after it expired.

He said they as well tried to use the kits as much as they could before its expiration based on the number of patients they accommodate in a day, but they were not able to use all of them.

Some of the RT-PCR test kits assessed by the World Health Organization have 12 months shelf-life upon manufacture.

The medical firm submitted to DOH a report on the actual usage of the donated kits. Parkway handled the expired test kits’ disposal after disinfection.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan said Parkway should have returned the kits to the DOH to call attention to donation of test kits that are near its expiration, which translates to billions of public funds gone to waste.

“This is a controversial issue at the national front, as we are giving a lot of test kits that cannot be used, which is a waste of money,” Olowan said.

Councilor Michael Lawana, who questioned Parkway on how the donated kits were used, asked the firm to furnish the council a list of those who availed of the RT-PCR test kits.

Councilor Elaine Sembrano also asked to be furnished a proof of how the expired test kits were disposed. She supported the comment that test kits should have been returned so it could have been replaced with ones that can be used. 

Taclobao said the donated test kits were intended for the public, where the 1,000 kits that did not yet expire were availed of City Hall employees, hospital and health workers, and employees of some local government units. 

While the test kit was free, Taclobao said they had to charge P1,500 per patient as they have to use other reagents aside from the test kit.

An RT-PCR test regularly costs P5,000 but Parkway charges a lowered rate of P4,000 for non-PhilHealth members and P1,500 for some PhilHealth-covered members.

The city government through the coordination of Mayor Benjamin Magalong with the National Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has been actively conducting expanded testing for free among residents as part of early detection, isolation, contact tracing efforts to curb Covid-19 transmission.  – Hanna C. Lacsamana