VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
WHEN Government gave out land to the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) to build a laboratory at Kalingalinga Clinic, no one knew the facility was to become a force to reckon with.
The laboratory has been helping government clinics to handle specimens beyond their normal capacity.
Sixteen years later, CIDRZ has gained both national and international acclaim for its outstanding services.
“The partnership between Government and CIDRZ has resulted in this infrastructure development- laboratory, the only one of its kind now in the country,” Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said.
“This is the kind of partnerships that Government wants to grow, collaborations that positively impact the lives of our people.”
CIDRZ was recently accredited by the Southern African Development Community Accreditation Services (SADCAS) as a medical testing Laboratory in Haematology, serology and virology.
The accreditation is in recognition of CIDRZ’s compliance to international standards of providing safe and reliable results for patients.
Dr Chilufya who was represented by permanent secretary for training Elwyn Chomba said the accreditation is no mean achievement because it reflects CIDRZ’s impeccable services.
“What makes the MoH more proud is that CIDRZ lab is the first and only lab to be accredited by SADCAS and that speaks volumes about the capacity of service we have come to expect from CIDRZ,” Dr Chilufya said.
SADCAS is a multi-economy accreditation body established by Article 15 B of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of the SADC Protocol on Trade with the primary purpose of ensuring that service providers conform to set standards.
The minister observed that Government has increased the number of health facilities which calls for the need to increase laboratory services.
He said Government appreciates CIDRZ’s effort and contribution to ensuring the delivery of quality health care in the country.
SADCAS chief executive officer Maureen Mutasa said many countries are embracing “accreditation as a mandatory activity in regulated areas” because of the benefits accreditation brings to help governments meet their responsibilities, safeguard the public and protect the environment.
Ms Mutesa reiterated that accreditation in accordance to ISO 15189 strengthens community confidence in results and helps improve patient care.
It provides continuous staff education and attracts professional reference due to accuracy and competence.
“Accreditation is about policymakers embracing best practice in national development programmes and making it part of the business culture. It is about making accreditation work for economic and social development. A real investment indeed,” Ms Mutesa said.
She said this of course requires visionary leadership and commitment because it is about goal congruency and teamwork.
“I am happy that CIDRZ has all these qualities hence the accreditation achievement,” Mrs Mutasa said.
And CIDRZ board chairperson Bradford Machila said the international accreditation by SADCAS validates and puts the CIDRZ central laboratory at the same standard as other international laboratories in providing quality laboratory services.
“We encourage all our partners who have been sending their samples outside the country to confidently trust us and (be) rest assured that they will obtain quality results from CIDRZ,” he added.
Mr Machila said CIDRZ has gained international reputation by demonstrating excellence through delivery of quality services locally and internationally. “Through provision of quality laboratory services, the laboratory is recognised internationally, and we are confident this milestone will increase our presence locally and across the globe,” he said.
“And today, we celebrate the validation of this quality by achieving international accreditation at the central laboratory.”
CIDRZ deputy chief executive officer, Emmanuel Qua-Enoo said his organisation works closely with the MoH, with funding from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to provide capacity-building supervisory support and technical assistance activities.
The activities are aimed at accelerating government laboratory service improvements in four CIDRZ supported provinces namely Western, Eastern, Lusaka and Southern.
“We currently have a five-year PEPFAR/CDC supported project aimed at ‘Scaling up lab services for viral load and early infant diagnosis Testing to meet the 90/90/90 Goals,’ known as Lab Innovation for Excellence (LIFE),” Mr Qua-Enoo said.
With the LIFE project, the organisation will work towards strengthening the health systems by “improving sample courier networks, providing equipment and personnel, improving quality management systems, providing stable power at pre-analytical level and improving data flow from facility, to testing.
CIDRZ laboratory operations manager at Kalingalinga Clinic Mabvuto Phiri highlighted that the central lab services 25 District Health Management Teams in Lusaka.
“We provide courier services to and from the clinics. Samples are received twice a day,” Mr Phiri said.
Among the common tests that the lab conducts are viral load (of HIV), chemistry and tumor markers tests.
What makes the laboratory unique is the effectiveness and efficiency involved in conducting the tests.
Mr Phiri noted that the CIDRZ lab was recently equipped with new equipment and technology to meet the demand for over 15, 000 samples of viral loads daily.
VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka