Saliva-based RT-PCR tests now covered by Philhealth – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   April 7, 2021   •   252

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has directed the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to come up with mechanisms to cover saliva-based RT-PCR tests for COVID-19.

The DOH issued the directive as it released guidelines on the use and administration of saliva-based RT-PCR testing on Tuesday.

Under a memorandum dated March 31, the DOH ordered the state insurer to “develop appropriate payment and provider engagement mechanisms” for the test.

“No payment shall be charged to patients beyond the PhilHealth coverage for the conduct of saliva-based RT-PCR testing,” read a document signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

In a statement on Tuesday, the DOH announced that the country is now officially allowing the use of saliva-based tests for COVID-19 “in pursuit of expanding the country’s testing capacity and ensuring immediate and efficient implementation of PDITR strategies.”

Under the DOH Department Memorandum (DM) No. 2021-0161, only licensed COVID-19 laboratories certified by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) are allowed to perform saliva-based RT-PCR.

“Furthermore, point-of-care clinics, specimen collecting facilities, and disease reporting units can perform saliva specimen collection, provided that the specimen collectors have undergone training from the referral licensed COVID-19 laboratory certified to perform saliva testing,” it said.

Only test kits validated by the RITM or other RITM-recognized laboratories can be used for saliva tests. These kits should also have a special certification from the Food and Drug Administration.

The DOH also reiterated that “only trained saliva specimen collectors” should administer the test and “only medical doctors should interpret the results of these tests.”

“Results need to be correlated with the overall clinical and epidemiological context of the patient,” it added.

The DOH said saliva tests should only be done on certain conditions and are deemed valid when such conditions are met.

“As stipulated in the guidelines, morning saliva is preferred as specimen due to higher viral load but this should not prevent specimen collection at any other time,” it said.

“Proper collection procedure should also be strictly observed where patients should not eat, drink, brush their teeth, use mouthwash or smoke for at least 30 minutes before sample collection,” it added.

The agency, however, maintained that nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab specimens remain the standard specimen for the diagnosis of COVID-19 through RT-PCR testing.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) first rolled out saliva testing in January after securing government approval. The humanitarian organization offers the saliva test at P2,000 each.

PH records 8,719 new COVID-19 infections

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ tally of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases has climbed to 979,740 on Friday after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 8,718 additional infections.

In its 4 p.m. bulletin, the DOH said the latest tally pushed the country’s total active cases to 102,799.

The agency noted that one laboratory failed to submit data on time.

Total recoveries climbed to 860,412 after 13,812 more patients recuperated from the viral respiratory disease.

The death toll rose to 16,529 with 159 new fatalities.

PhilHealth’s debit-credit payment method now applies to all COVID-19 high, critical risk areas – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government’s task force for COVID-19 response has approved the application of Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s (PhilHealth) debit-credit payment method (DCPM) in areas with high-risk and critical COVID-19 situation nationwide, Malacañang said Friday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) approved the policy on Thursday, April 22.

Roque said the move was made as high-risk and critical risk areas will also be prioritized in the COVID-19 vaccine allocation, human health resource deployment, and other relevant COVID-19 response measures, as applicable.

Prior to the IATF’s order, PhilHealth, under its Circular 2021-0004, provides for the use of payment method to facilitate the settlement of accounts payable to healthcare facilities during the State of Public Health Emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

PhilHealth initially applied DCPM only to areas identified by the IATF, particularly in the National Capital Region, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal.

Roque said the IATF likewise directed the National Task Force (NTF) Task Group Treat, through the One COVID Referral System, to utilize the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases (FASSSTER) projections on target beds and human resources for health.

“These projections shall identify health capacity needs required to lower health care and intensive care unit (ICU) utilization rates,” he said.

“The NTF shall also review and implement the recommended Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat- Reintegrate strategies to reduce the health utilization rates and augment the needs of human resources for health,” he added.

Roque said that the task group will also identify target additional beds on a weekly basis that will substantially reduce health care and ICU utilization rates, determine and list specific health facilities and infrastructure to contribute these additional beds, and operationalize how these beds become functional with adequate human resources for health and equipment.

The Palace official earlier said that the government is eyeing to add 200 more ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

“The NTF shall further engage the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to develop training and instructional materials of available COVID-19 response frameworks to enhance the enforcement of COVID-19 strategies at the barangay level,” Roque said.

The said materials shall be cascaded to the barangay, purok, sitio, and zone levels through the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the regional counterparts of the NTF for immediate and intensified implementation through barangay empowerment, he added.

DOH’s Duque gets vaccinated vs COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III received his first dose of a vaccine against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Friday.

Duque was inoculated around 10 a.m. with CoronaVac dose made by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech. Health Undersecretary Geraldo Bayugo administered the vaccine.

Duque, 64, is a senior citizen that belongs to A2 category of the government’s COVID-19 priority list.

“As I receive my dose of the COVID-19 vaccine today, I invite everyone to do the same, and choose to be protected,” Duque was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the DOH.

“Let us all take part in protecting public health, and let us be in unison in spreading one message: that vaccines are safe, and vaccines are effective,” he added.

Duque also stressed that the government is doing everything it can to secure sufficient vaccine supply to cover 70 million Filipinos.

The DOH chief’s vaccination follows the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration to use CoronaVac on senior citizens amid a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccine supply, which is used to inoculate the elderly.

 

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