CMLF highlights OECS Member States’ Laboratory Achievements

At the OECS Ministers Policy Meeting on 5 December 2019, the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF) highlighted the achievements made by OECS Member States with respect their laboratory services. During the meeting, Honourable Mary Issacs, Minister of Health of St. Lucia presented a Certificate to Antigua & Barbuda’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Rhonda Sealey, 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.

Honourable Minister Mary Issacs, Minister of Health of St. Lucia presents Certificate of Achievement to Chief Medical Officer of Antigua & Barbuda, Dr. Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, to mark successful implementation of Tier 1 Requirements by Mount St. John’s Medical Centre Laboratory

Also noted, with respect to National Laboratory Policy adoption, the achievements of Grenada and St. Lucia, where Cabinets have already approved their National Laboratory Policy and St. Vincent & the Grenadines as well as St. Kitts & Nevis where the National Laboratory Policy and Draft Legislation have been submitted to the Attorney General’s Office by the respective Ministries of Health. 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).

Meeting of Permanent Secretaries, Chief Medical Officers and their Representatives to agree on Implementation Plan for National Laboratory Policy and Legislation.

Under the HTEP, four OECS Member States – Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent & 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.

GeneXpert – in use in Antigua, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent to test for MTB Drug Resistance for TB Elimination and HIV Viral Load.

The other two Member States – Dominica and St. Kitts & Nevis – will receive GeneXpert technology and training early in 2020 under this GF HTEP. The introduction of this technology within the OECS represents a major 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, St. Vincent & 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, so as to improve resourcing of laboratory services.