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CMLF highlights OECS Member States’ Laboratory Achievements

January 31, 2020

At the OECS Ministers Policy Meeting held in December 2019, the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF) highlighted the achievements made by OECS Member States with respect to their laboratory services. During the meeting, Honourable Mary Issacs, Minister of Health and Wellness, Saint Lucia presented a Certificate to Antigua & Barbuda’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, recognising the achievement of Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) Laboratory in meeting Tier 1 requirements of the Caribbean Laboratory Quality Management Systems – Stepwise Improvement Process (LQMS-SIP) in August 2019.

Also recognised were Grenada and Saint Lucia for efforts regarding the National Laboratory Policy adoption.  Both countries have approved policies. Draft legislation and National Laboratory Policy have been submitted to the Attorney General’s Office by the respective Ministries of Health in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Kitts and Nevis. At a meeting of Permanent Secretaries, Chief Medical Officers and their representatives, hosted by CMLF in November 2019, a “common implementation plan” was developed for the adoption and implementation of national laboratory policies and legislation within the six OECS Member States that are participants in the OECS Global Fund Continuation Grant for HIV and TB Elimination (HTEP).

Under the HTEP, four OECS Member States, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have received and introduced, with appropriate training, GeneXpert technology for molecular testing. The public laboratories in these countries have begun to utilise GeneXpert for Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (MTB) and drug resistance testing as well as for HIV Viral Load testing. GeneXpert testing has been integrated into the algorithm for TB diagnosis in these countries as part of their plans for TB Elimination. Plans are underway for expansion of testing to include Chlamydia and Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) for HIV.

Dominica and Saint Kitts and Nevis will receive GeneXpert technology and training early in 2020 under this GF HTEP. The introduction of this technology within the OECS represents a significant step forward for these small island states, in providing capacity to conduct molecular testing on this multiplex platform for a wide and expanding variety of infectious diseases.

In an important step forward, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has become the first OECS country to assign a separate budget to its public laboratory services. Discussions at both Ministers and National Lab Policy and Legislation Implementation meetings focused on strategies for addressing the ongoing challenge of financial and human resource deficiencies in these countries to improve resources for laboratory services.