RITM to suspend lab operations as strong typhoon heads for PH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 30 2020 05:32 PM

RITM Facebook page

MANILA — The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, among laboratories that run COVID-19 tests in the country, on Friday said it would close its laboratories on November 1 and 2 to prepare for the incoming typhoon.

“This is to provide room for implementation of disaster risk mitigation measures throughout the Institute,” the RITM said in a release. 

The RITM laboratory is the first to run COVID-19 testing in the Philippines. It is also among the laboratories that process the largest numbers of coronavirus tests in the Philippines.

The RITM cited the state weather bureau’s forecast that Typhoon Rolly would bring heavy to intense rains on November 1.

“We intend to test samples received until tomorrow, October 31,” said RITM Director Celia Carlos. 

She advised disease reporting units (DRUs) to refer samples to them within 7 to 10 a.m. and those that won’t be processed would be stored in the lab’s freezer “for priority queuing” once it resumes operations.

The RITM said “key personnel will be on 24-hour duty to reinforce facilities, secure equipment, and back up files, data, systems, and programs in case of rain damage and power interruption.”

“While the reserve power requirement for reefer vans storing temperature-sensitive COVID-19 supplies are currently being established, RITM has also made arrangements with the DOH NCR (Department of Health National Capital Region) warehouse for the emergency transfer of the National Immunization Program (NIP) vaccines stored in the Institute,” it added.

It will also put in place other precautions in case of disruption.

Despite the temporary halt in laboratory procedures, “clinical services within the Institute will remain unhampered.”

“Outpatient swabbing and walk-in patients will still be entertained, however, only COVID-19 cases will be admitted at the hospital,” it said.

The RITM assured the public that it would also assist patients who sustain injuries due to the typhoon but would transfer them to Ospital ng Muntinlupa (OsMun). 

“Provision of essential patient care supplies is assured, and concerned units are mobilizing for possible evacuation of currently admitted patients to safer areas within the hospital,” it said.

“This temporary halt means that we give serious attention to addressing challenges in our infrastructure and equipment, which, at this point, may not be able to sustain the repeated onslaught of typhoons,” Carlos said. 

“We shall proceed with these risk mitigation measures fully understanding of our part in the ongoing outbreak response, while also ensuring the safety of our personnel, stakeholders, and everyone who transports specimens to our facility,” she added.