PGH accepts Lopez Group offer to expand hospital’s COVID-19 testing capacity

May 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) has accepted an offer from the Lopez Group to help the state university hospital increase 10 times its capability to test for the virus SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of the dreaded coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Within the month, Lopez-controlled First Gen Corporation and ABS-CBN Corporation will complete an ongoing donation of P46 million worth of new machines and lab equipment that will expand the hospital’s COVID-19 testing capacity from 150 to 1,500 tests per shift. The donated equipment will allow more automation and increase the volume of testing.

Under a newly signed agreement between First Gen and the University of the Philippines (UP), First Gen is allowing PGH through UP the free use of a system of laboratory machines for conducting tests known as reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). PGH is administered by UP, a state university.

The RT-PCR test is a two-step process of first extracting the viral genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 from a patient’s virus-infected cells and then testing to confirm the presence of the virus by detecting it through PCR. The ‘chain reaction’ of PCR makes it easier to detect viral genetic material if it is present.

ABS-CBN, on the other hand, is donating to PGH several units of a fully integrated automated molecular diagnostics platform, known as BD Max. This particular system combines the two processes of extraction and testing for the presence of the highly contagious virus and shortens the testing period from four hours to just two (2) hours.

“We are grateful to the Lopez Group for helping us fulfill our expanded role as a COVID-19 Referral Center. Armed with the right technology for detection, we can stay ahead of this virus through testing, isolation and treatment,” said PGH Director Dr. Gerardo D. Legaspi.

“Together with assistance from other government agencies and donors, these machines from the Lopez Group will bring us closer to the target of performing 30,000 COVID-19 RT-PCR tests daily,” Dr. Legaspi added.

“By strengthening our laboratories, this donation will eventually allow us to serve COVID-19 patients not only from Metro Manila, but also from nearby provinces,” Dr. Legaspi pointed out.

The Lopez Group focused on providing the machines after holding a consultation meeting with PGH officials.

“During the meeting, it was determined that PGH was in dire need of testing machines to expand its capacity and effectively function as a COVID-19 Referral Center and as a COVID-19 referral laboratory of government and private hospitals,” said Dr. Januario D. Veloso of UP-PGH Central Laboratory.

“All the donated test kits from other countries, like those from China and Singapore, as well as the test kits developed by the UP National Institutes of Health, can be used in the upgraded laboratories,” Dr. Veloso explained.

“The machines from the Lopez Group, therefore, will play a vital role in detecting the virus and stopping its spread. These steps must be taken before we can safely re-open the economy,” he stressed.