RITM shuts down labs due to typhoon

Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) – November 1, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The laboratories of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) are closed today and tomorrow as a precaution for the forecasted landfall of Typhoon Rolly, but RITM director Celia Carlos said outpatient swabbing and walk-in patients will still be entertained, although only COVID-19 cases will be admitted at the hospital.

For patients who will sustain injuries due to the typhoon, RITM will provide first aid and assistance for transfer to Ospital ng Muntinlupa (OsMun).

According to Carlos, they decided to temporarily shut down RITM’s laboratory operations to allow the implementation of “disaster risk mitigation measures” throughout the institute. RITM is the country’s leading referral center for infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

“We intend to test samples received until (yesterday),” she noted in a statement.

Carlos gave assurance there are provisions of essential patient care supplies and “concerned units are mobilizing for possible evacuation of currently admitted patients to safer areas within the hospital.”

RITM has encouraged the disease reporting units (DRUs) to refer their samples early. Those that would not be tested within the day are stored in the -70° freezer for “priority queuing” when operations resume.

Starting Friday, key personnel were on 24-hour duty to reinforce facilities, secure equipment and back up files, data, systems and programs.

Carlos added that they made arrangements with the Department of Health (DOH) for the emergency transfer of the vaccines stored at the facility for the national immunization programs to its warehouse.

She said the “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.”

“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 employees, stakeholders and everyone who transports specimens to our facility,” she added.

Meanwhile, as Typhoon Rolly threatens the country, the DOH ordered the immediate transfer of COVID-19 patients who are undergoing quarantine in makeshift tents and other facilities that can be toppled by the tropical cyclone to a safer facility.?At a press briefing yesterday, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said these patients would have to be moved to hospitals to ensure their safety.?The medical equipment in isolation facilities will also have to be transferred to secured places.

Vergeire also urged local government units to make sure that minimum health standards are strictly observed in all evacuation centers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The official underscored that the virus is transmitted through droplet infection and reminded the public to observe physical distancing of at least one meter.“We must be very vigilant. There must be a safety officer that will monitor and advise those inside the evacuation center,” Vergeire said. – Ralph Edwin Villanueva

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