Department of Health (DOH) Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said that they have already rerouted swab test specimens meant to be processed by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to major laboratories in and around Metro Manila.

This move came after the PRC decided to stop its free COVID-19 testing due to the debt issue of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

“This is a temporary measure so we would be able to complete and proceed and continuously receive specimens para hindi ma-hamper ang operations,” said Vergeire.

“We rerouted specimens for the Philippine Red Cross to the big labs around Metro Manila and nearby Metro Manila like Jose B Lingad, Lung Center of the Philippines, and other big labs,” she added.

The PhilHealth-funded tests were usually given to OFWs, individuals arriving in airports and seaports, and mostly public healthcare workers. The PRC, however, unilaterally ended this arrangement because of PhilHealth’s non-payment of its P930-million debt.

With this, Vergeire reiterated that the government might remove the requirement of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests for Filipinos returning from countries with a “low prevalence” of COVID-19.

“If testing will not be accessible, we will just be able to quarantine them for 14 days, and after 14 days, they will be able to return to their provinces,” she said, calling the scheme a “more rationale testing methodology.”

PRC’s decision is a big blow to the government’s testing strategy and implementation of the Universal Health Care Act which mandates that PhilHealth should cover all Filipinos’ COVID-19 testing and treatment.


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