Caribbean countries face multiple and complex challenges, from the severe epidemic of chronic diseases (including diabetes, heart disease, cancers and HIV) to new and emerging highly communicable diseases like Ebola, chikungunya and Zika, with devastating impact on regional economies.
As far back as 2001, CARICOM Heads of Government, in the ‘Nassau Declaration on Health’ unanimously proclaimed health to be a major impactor on economic development, requiring urgent regional attention.
Today, chronic diseases represent the most significant driver of health care inflation, morbidity and mortality affecting a considerable percentage of the Caribbean population during their most productive years. Effectiveness of prevention and treatment interventions for chronic diseases is highly dependent on laboratory data.
CMLF’s work has direct impact on the quality of laboratory services an individual receives and on government spending. Laboratory error can sometimes be fatal for an individual or it can cause further illness. Laboratory error can be costly – in settling lawsuits, in rising costs of providing health care, and in loss of income. And in these financially hard times, we simply cannot continue with sub-standard laboratory operations that give rise to laboratory error.
Unfortunately apparent recognition of the importance of laboratories for addressing regional health priorities has not translated into increased and sustained investments in improving the quality of laboratory services provided in the region. While it has been estimated that 70-80% of medical decisions and major public health actions are influenced by laboratory results, in most countries, budgets for laboratory services represent only approximately 5% of national health budgets.
The Caribbean Med Labs Foundation assists regional populations and governments as well as public and private laboratories by:
- Advocating at the highest levels for the necessary laws and regulations for licensing of laboratories to ensure that standards are met;
- Promoting the development of a regional environment supportive of high quality medical and public health laboratory services and blood safety;
- Mobilising resources for strengthening medical and public health laboratories and stakeholder institutions;
- Training of laboratory staff to put systems in place to reduce laboratory error;
- Conducting research on the cost and impact of laboratory error.
In continuing this very challenging journey, the collective effort of the many laboratory and blood bank stakeholders and partners is critical. It is our collective effort that will define and determine the success of this initiative. What is required is the understanding and full support of all our stakeholders, including:
- governments and other regulatory authorities
- laboratory staff
- blood transfusion services
- clinicians and other healthcare professionals
- suppliers and manufacturers
- health administrators
- significant users and drivers of laboratory services such as insurance companies and the tourism industry and
- regional publics.
Caribbean Standards Bureaux and Accreditation Bodies, in particular, have a critical role and responsibility in this transformation process. Your support will be critical to the region’s success.
We look forward to continuing partnering with you towards realising the vision of a relevant, reliable, responsive, compliant and customer-focused Caribbean laboratory service.
We continue to welcome your suggestions or recommendations or simply food for thought. Or you might simply need further clarification or information. We would like to hear from you.