National laboratory strategy being developed – Dr Anthony

The Ministry of Health is improving its laboratory capacity to meet the needs of patients at different levels of the health system.

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony, at a recent forum, said a national laboratory strategy is being developed to ensure local labs can process samples promptly and produce accurate results. 

Lab technicians at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory

“One of the things we have been working on in the ministry, is also to develop a national laboratory strategy, and we want to look at it just like how we have different layers in our health system, health posts, health centres, district hospitals, regional hospitals, referral hospitals, along that continuum, we want to ensure that at each level, that we can do the appropriate types of testing for each of these levels,” Dr. Anthony said.

The ministry, with the help of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is also developing an essential package of services at the different levels, including a comprehensive laboratory service.

It was determined that at least 216 different types of diseases must now be detected at the health centre level, therefore, Dr. Anthony stressed, laboratory support is important.

“While we have CARPHA (The Caribbean Public Health Agency) in the region and we can send samples to CARPHA, we would also like to develop our national capacity, we started some years ago by developing the national public health reference lab, but over the years the lab, as I would say, fallen short in many different departments,” he said.

He noted that a sub-strategy of the national laboratory strategy, would focus specifically on the national public health reference lab and how to upgrade the various departments within the facility.

The health minister said assistance was requested from other partners of CARPHA to help with evaluation to ensure the lab is equipped and persons trained to man the various departments.

“We will be working systematically to make sure that we can equip it, and train people to run these departments so that we could offer a wider range of services than what is happening currently, of course, we can send some of our samples over to CARPHA but if we can do this in house, it is important that we do that in-house and we can always use CARPHA as that reference body,” the health minister said.

The ministry will also introduce newer services such as genomic sequencing.

Minister Anthony noted that the transformation that will occur in the coming years is not accidental but is planned and will be implemented strategically.