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AMOSUP President Dr Conrado Oca says the need for testing facilities in the Philippines provided the Hospital an opportunity to set up its own to cover thousands of Union members

The AMOSUP Seamen’s Hospital Manila has put up its own molecular laboratory equipped to provide immediate test results for COVID-19. AMOSUP hails the support of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), whose backing by its charitable arm – ITF Seafarers’ Trust – has given the realisation of the union’s molecular lab project.

The 90-square meter molecular lab at Seamen’s Hospital in Intramuros, Manila can perform 300 tests a day and determine seafarer’s status within a day upon testing.

“The construction of this RT-PCR laboratory is intended to give us the capacity to provide immediate results for seafarers especially because testing for COVID-19 is crucial to ensure their unrestricted movement as key workers,” according to AMOSUP President Dr Conrado Oca.

The machine being used has several applications and can be utilised to conduct tests for flu, RSV, tuberculosis and HIV. It can also detect bacteria in blood so it won’t get obsolete even if COVID-19 gets controlled to a minimum.

Dr Oca said, the need for testing facilities in the Philippines provided the Seamen’s Hospital the opportunity to set up its own to cover thousands of AMOSUP member seafarers departing and arriving who are required to be tested.

It will also aid the country’s response strategy in managing the COVID-19 situation that the Department of Health (DOH) promotes – prevention, isolation, contact tracing, and treatment.

The license DOH extended to the Seamen’s Hospital is for cartridge-based PCR Laboratory that can release result within 24 hours after testing. It began operating last 01 September.

Prior to DOH accreditation the Hospital carried out proficiency training for its lab analysts. They were evaluated prior to the issuance of the license, along with a dry run before the Union’s hospital officially started conducting tests amongst members.

With the expected arrival of thousands of seafarers in  the coming months, as well as the requirement for embarking seafarers to undergo reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) before their deployment, the demand for the testing amongst seafarers is expected to increase.

The industry estimates that around 180,000 Filipino seafarers remain on board ships, with another 180,000 crew waiting to replace them.

The RT-PCR test the Seamen’s Hospital offers detects the actual presence of the virus. According to DOH, PCR determines if an individual is positive with the virus even when asymptomatic.

The DOH, in a recent statement, hailed the private sector’s initiatives in joining the government’s response to increase the country’s testing capacity to address the COVID-19 pandemic.SF