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My Experience: Free Swab Testing (RT-PCR) for Cebuanos at VSMMC

To help the Filipinos, especially Cebuanos, face and fight COVID-19 pandemic, Cebu City opened the first ever free swab testing center outside Metro Manila. It is facilitated by a government-run regional hospital, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC). The main purpose is to expand the services of the government to have more people tested using the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. Although one could avail the rapid testing through blood extraction, RT- PCR test is more accurate in giving results. This is very helpful especially to those who could not afford the RT-PCR test which costs P8,000 in average.

What you should know about RT-PCR test conducted at VSMMC?

At VSMMC, all the swab testing for SARS-CoV-2 are only conducted by a healthcare provider. If you avail of the free swab testing, both nasopharyngeal (NP) and oropharyngeal (OP) specimens will be collected from you. This means that you will be swabbed at the nose and throat. When I availed of the swab testing, all personnel collecting the specimens were wearing their own personal protective equipment (PPE). The whole PPE includes an N95, eye protection, gloves, and a gown. Gloves were replaced every single time to maintain proper infection control.

Why Avail of Free Swab Testing at VSMMC?

The purpose why I availed of the free swab testing is for travel. Last October, I decided to go home to Gensan this November to spend the upcoming holidays. Thankfully, my company allowed me to have a work-from-home setup. If you are planning to travel soon, it is important to coordinate with the local government unit (LGU) of your destination. Proper coordination will make it easier for you to understand what you should do to complete the requirements. When I coordinated with LGU-Gensan, part of the requirements is that I must present a printed copy of a negative COVID‑19 PCR test result certificate.

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Aside from travel, people are availing the swab test if they experience symptoms and want to confirm if they have the virus. I have also heard that jeepneys will be back in Cebu, and only those drivers with negative COVID-19 PCR test results will be allowed to operate. According to statistics, people who availed of the testing are front liners and personnel manning quarantine facilities and control points. In short, those who are at risk are highly recommended to get tested.

How to Avail of the Free Swab Testing at VSMMC

There is no walk-in. Everything is done by appointment, but they are giving high priority to those who are experiencing symptoms. So, better call their hotlines first if you want to be prioritized.

  • Those who want to avail of the free swab testing at VSMMC need to book online to get an appointment. Please note that they can only accommodate up to 200 people per day. So, if the date is already grayed out, it means that they haven’t opened yet the booking for that day or there are no more slots. My suggestion is to book two weeks prior to your target date of testing.
  • You can choose either drive-thru or walk-thru. Those with vehicles can use the drive-through testing service, You won’t need to get out of your car. If you don’t have a private car, taxi will do. In my experience, I hired a metered taxi. I preferred drive-thru because it’s safer and faster. Queuing in walk-thru is also long.
  • Once you have completed your registration online, you need to bring with you the QR code they will give after registration. You also need to present government-issued ID during the testing date.
  • Arrive on the appointed time and day.
  • Turnaround time is 2-4 days for results. However, in my case, my result was released (based on paper) on the same day, but was only given to me via e-mail after 24 hrs. So, my suggestion is to follow-up your results, and they are quick to respond.
  • If you wish to contact them, you may call or text 0929-2874-359 or 263-5349.
  • Results validity is only 72 hrs. That’s why you have to travel within 72 hrs before the results expire. So, plan carefully.
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What it feels like to have the swab test?

Before I arrived, I asked a few friends about their experience. Some said it’s painful, and it kind of scare me a bit. During the actual day, the taxi driver I was with was more nervous than me. It’s funny. But based on my experience, the throat swab was more uncomfortable. I’m not using the term “painful” here because it’s not really painful at all. It may be at the moment, but it’s not the thing that will last. During the nasal swab, when the 6-in long swab was inserted to both your nose holes, you will feel the stab at the back of your nose. The closes feeling might be if you were swimming and you get chlorine or sea water all the way back there. That’s it! Nevertheless, it’s tolerable.

Results will be sent via E-mail

If you tested negative like me, congratulations! But, if you tested positive, the local government unit where you come from from will also receive a copy of the test results from the Department of Health so that local officials can immediately conduct contact tracing. Instructions will be sent via e-mail so you will be guided.

To all our front liners: Thank you for all the service, time, and sacrifice you are giving to our community. We are grateful for all you do!

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