AFTER the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) halted the swab or RT-PCR testing for arriving Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) at Terminals 1, 2 and 3 at the NAIA on Oct. 15, a total of 12 government laboratories joined hands to fulfil the needed services.
Although it resulted in temporary delay in the release of results on the first day that the Red Cross suddenly stopped conducting the swab tests, support and commitment and spirit of volunteerism from various government agencies helped in responding to the needs of returning OFWs. It also lessened the burden of huge expenses entailed by the swab test because it is free for our modern-day heroes.
The government assured that the free swabbing will be a continuous thing for OFWs at the airports. There will be no more hitches like the said incident, because it is now the government handling all its aspects.
Those that immediately served at the NAIA are the following 12 laboratories: Lung Center of the Philippines; Philippine Genome Hospital; PNP Crime Laboratory; San Lazaro Hospital; Sta Ana Hospital; UP National Institute for Health; Dr. Jose N. Reyes Memorial Hospital; Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital; Las Piñas General Hospital; Ospital ng Imus; Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM); Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) and Central Visayas Molecular Laboratory in Cebu.
Led by the Department of Health, these laboratories voluntary accepted their quota of sample for processing, based on their capacity to release swab test results within 48 hours. The 12 laboratories did not hesitate to accept the challenge of processing more or less 3,000 samples every day.
At least 21,238 OFWs were processed by government laboratory volunteers. They were immediately able to return to their respective homes thorugh the Hatid Probinsya Program of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). Those going to Visayas and Mindanao were taken home through chartered flights whle those from Luzon were made to ride the dedicated buses from the PITX. A group of Information Technology experts helped by creating an Automated System to make it paperless and speed up all aspects of processing, from filling up the Case Investigation Forms upon arrival of the OFWs at the airport, up to the release of the test results and when they are given Quarantine Certificates by the BOQ.
Philippine Coast Guard medical personnel meanwhile continued to conduct the actual swabbing of samples which were then brought to the different laboratories through the delivery vehicles of CAAP and PCG. The swab test samples going to Cebu were brought by OWWA Hatid Probinsya flights daily.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) continues to take care of the needs of arriving non- OFWs in the airport. All government agencies are also joining efforts in the One Stop Shop (OSS), led by the DOTr as per the directive of the Task Force for the Management of Returning Filipinos.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) continue helping OFWs with their personal problems and other needs.
Right now, the PRC is back. But the moment it again halts operations, the government proved that it can do the job that the PRC may leave hanging.
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