19 June, 2020
The Prime Minister Hon. Rev. Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa today visited Vaiola Hospital for a brief program to officially mark the completion of the laboratory extension to enable PCR testing for COVID-19 in Tonga.
‘’This is a key milestone in our national preparedness and response plan for COVID-19 and we thank the Hon. Prime Minister and Government for their support as well as all stakeholders and our development partners,’’ said CEO for Health, Dr. Siale ‘Akau’ola.
Despite the logistical challenges during the global pandemic with lockdowns, border closures and escalating prices due to increased demand, the Ministry of Health was fortunate to receive the much-awaited testing machines for COVID-19 so that tests could be done locally and results received within hours. Prior to this, specimen had to be sent abroad for COVID-19 testing and results took much longer.
Vaiola Hospital now has 3 machines that can test for COVID-19 being 1 PCR machine that can run 96 tests at a time and a smaller one to run 17 tests at a time with results within hours. The Gene X-Pert machine which also tests for COVID-19 and donated by the World Health Organisation through SPC can run 4 tests at a time with results within hours.
Following the Opening Prayer by Senior Medical Scientist, Sitanilei Hoko with a hymnal reading by Medical Officer Dr. Luke Huni and sung by nurses, the Minister of Health Hon. Associate Professor ‘Amelia Afuha’amango Tu’ipulotu, welcomed the Hon. Prime Minister and guests to Vaiola Hospital on this important day.
Acting Medical Superintendent Dr. ‘Ana ‘Akau’ola briefed the gathering on the works completed explaining that the total cost for laboratory upgrade, equipment and consumables cost TOP610,541.23.
‘’Everyone has been working hard to procure the equipment then complete this additional work which is required for the equipment and our staff have been trained. We know people have been waiting for this and we thank them for their patience and prayers during these trying times,’’ added Dr. ‘Akau’ola.
There are strict protocols for COVID-19 testing and criteria for persons to be tested.