The Department of Laboratories, referred to by most doctors simply as the “Central Laboratory,” is an ancillary department of the PGH located on the second floor of the Left Central Block (LCB) Building. From its humble beginnings in 1913 as a unit of the Department of Pathology and Bacteriology tasked to perform the simplest of laboratory tests – blood counts, stool and urine analyses – in a small room in Ward 15, the laboratory became independent in 1926 and through the years gradually evolved to become one of the largest and most sophisticated diagnostic centers in the country, housing a variety of state-of-the-art machines which perform more than 2 million laboratory exams a year.
The laboratory is composed of 7 sections, namely the Blood Bank, Hematology, Clinical Microscopy, Clinical Chemistry, Surgical Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunopathology sections. Each section is headed by a consultant pathologist or specialist assisted by a Med Tech supervisor. There is also a Receiving and Information Section where specimens like blood, urine, feces, sputum, and tissues are received and where laboratory results are released to the different hospital units. The laboratory caters to PGH patients in the Emergency Room Complex, Charity and Pay wards, Outpatients, Outpay referrals, and UP Health Service referrals.
Aside from the Chairman’s complex where the consultant staff and department of secretaries hold office, the department has a conference and a microscope room, a cutting room for surgical pathology specimens, a residents’ lounge, and a stockroom for reagents, chemicals, and supplies. The department also maintains a laboratory for outpatient on the second floor of the OPD building. In conjunction with the Department of Pathology of the UP College of Medicine, autopsies on PGH patients are performed in the college morgue while fine needle aspiration biopsies (FNAB’s) are channeled to its Section of Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology.
Cognizant of the fact that the laboratory plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis and therapeutic regimen of clinicians, the department maintains the highest level of accuracy and precision of its examination results by regularly implementing appropriate quality assurance programs to ensure the generation of quality lab values. In the Section of Clinical Chemistry, for instance, several internal and external quality control programs are in place through the use of controls, standards, blanks, blind samples, and performance of duplicate determinations.
The department is presently chaired by Dr. Ariel M. Vergel de Dios and is staffed by a roster of 23 medical specialists, 16 resident physicians, 107 medical technologists, 11 medical technology externs, 15 clerks, and 12 institutional workers. Its residency training program, a four-year combined course in anatomic and clinical pathology, is the biggest in the Philippines and currently has 16 resident physicians in its roll. There is also a Medical Technology Postgraduate Externship Program, offered twice a year, where 11 medtech externs are presently undergoing a six-month training course in all sections of the laboratory.
Aware of the dynamic nature of laboratory medicine and exploiting its advantage of catering to a large patient population, the department strongly encourages the conduct of researches, especially case reports and case series in a variety of topics. A Residents’ Research Forum is organized yearly to showcase and give recognition to the outstanding.
With the rapid evolution of laboratory medicine and emergence of newer and superior technology, the department realizes the need to constantly upgrade its service capability. The Section of Hematology plans to acquire a Flow Cytometry machine as well as to expand its coagulation studies to include D-dimer, fibin degradation products (FDP), and fibrinogen assays. The Section of Immunopathology will soon offer immunoflourescence examinations. The Section of Clinical Chemistry will initiate therapeutic drug monitoring while the Section of Surgical Pathology will perform immunohistochemical staining procedures. The Section of Microbiology plans to conduct testing on multiple drug-resistant organisms.