Caribbean Ministers Give Medical Laboratories an Urgent Assignment

The 19th Special Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) held in Washington DC, 27-28 September, has endorsed an initiative which the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF) is facilitating under its CARICOM-PANCAP Global Fund Programme, aimed at transforming the health laboratory environment. This is a crucial development for Public Health in the region, as in the face of increasing demands, Caribbean medical laboratories are being asked to do much more with less.

A team of regional experts, with CMLF facilitation, developed the Regional Framework for National Laboratory Policy to guide countries with planning and managing the increasingly challenging laboratory environment. CMLF Director-Laboratory Management Specialist, Ms Valerie Wilson, presented the Framework to the COHSOD in Washington, DC, on behalf of the regional team which developed it.

Country-level action on this framework is particularly urgent, as the region is facing an ongoing challenge from the severe epidemic of chronic diseases (including diabetes, heart disease, cancers and HIV), as well as ever-increasing threats posed by communicable diseases such as the already widespread regional epidemic of Chikungunya and the global threat of Ebola.

CMLF warns that “The environment for delivering an effective national laboratory service is unfortunately likely to become even more challenging in the short to medium term, so countries need to be even more strategic and structured to deliver. Resource challenges and current disease threats, in particular, demand maximum efficiency and cost-effectiveness in providing both public and private national laboratory services.” Additionally, CMLF is stressing the urgency for developing National Laboratory Policies to guide planning and implementation of the national laboratory structures mandated by the International Health Regulations (IHR).

The COHSOD decision follows the initial endorsement of the framework by Chief Medical Officers in April this year. Specifically, the COHSOD: endorsed the Regional Laboratory Policy Framework and requested Member States to provide leadership at the national level to support adaptation and implementation of the National Laboratory Policy Framework.

So urgent is this mandate, that some countries have already led the way and quite quickly and successfully with CMLF facilitation, have initiated and/or completed comprehensive drafts of their national laboratory policies using the generic framework. These are currently being channelled through their policy approval process.

The Foundation stands ready to provide continuing support for this process under the Global Fund Round 9 programme that will end in 2015 and looks forward to Caribbean countries taking this critical step towards transforming the health laboratory landscape.

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