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Red Cross probed for wrong COVID-19 test results

The Department of Health has begun its investigation into allegations that the Philippine Red Cross released wrong results of COVID-19 tests done on health workers.

As the congressional hearing into the alleged overpriced medical supplies and equipment procured by the government for its COVID-19 response resumed, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta of SAGIP party-list group disclosed that 44 out of 49 health workers in Subic tested positive after availing of PRC’s COVID-19 tests.

“It’s about a certain number of personnel in a hospital in Subic who were tested positive by the PRC laboratory in Subic. They are all vaccinated staff of the hospitals and because they doubt the result that they became positive, they have themselves retested on September 6, it happened last September 3,” Marcoleta said.

“After three days, they have themselves retested in another facility and 44 out of 49 false positive, nag-negative silang lahat,” Marcoleta added.

Rep. David Suarez of Quezon, vice-chairperson of the committee, said the wrong COVID-19 test results would have “definitely caused mental anguish, anxiety, and stress to the health workers who tested positive.”

“Mr. Chair I would like to stress this point because Secretary Duque, 14 days isolation is no joke. And I do understand that 14 days of isolation is necessary for those who are truly tested positive. So, we really need to look into how the testing is being done especially if this testing is being paid for. We are looking here if COVID0-19 cases are on the rise. How sure are we?” Suarez said.

In response, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine is now investigating the issue raised by Marcoleta.

“I have with me the actual communication coming from a complainant, but who has requested anonymity. But I do confirm there is that complaint, which is being investigated now by the Lab Network, headed by Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago, whom I believe relayed to the RITM to do an evaluation or assessment of this complaint,” Duque said.

He said the RITM will forward the result of its evaluation to the Health Facility Service Regulatory Bureau, which in turn will determine possible sanctions and actions to be taken to avert a similar incident in the future.

The PRC is headed by Senator Richard Gordon, once a part of the administration-allied “supermajority” in the Senate, who later earned President Rodrigo Duterte’s ire.

As chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, Gordon is leading a probe into the Duterte government’s pandemic purchases worth billions of pesos.

The Senate investigation is particularly looking into Pharmally, which won multibillion-peso contracts from DOH despite a meager startup capital, and has been linked to Duterte’s former economic adviser Michael Yang (see related story on A1 – Editors).

Last week, Duterte instructed Solicitor General Jose Calida to pen a letter addressed to Commission on Audit (COA) chair Michael Aguinaldo requesting an audit of the finances of the PRC, in which the President is the honorary chairman.

Duterte renewed the call to audit the PRC, saying Gordon, who he described as a “despot” had used the humanitarian organization as a milking cow for his election campaign.

He said the series of Senate probes “started with some incomprehensible reason”, noting that the DOH is already addressing the deficiencies in the COA report which pertain to inventory matters in the supplies.

Despite a series of Senate probes into alleged overpriced purchases of government, Duterte said Gordon could not scare him because corruption was not his “style”.

Topics: Department of Health , Philippine Red Cross , wrong results , COVID-19 , health workers
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