Contributor: Valerie Wilson, Director, Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF)
COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the world; laboratories are not immune to this change. The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has laid bare the critical importance of accurate, reliable and timely laboratory testing for diagnosis, patient care and management. It took COVID-19 to teach us, perhaps, one of the most striking lessons of the pandemic: the urgent need for scaling up testing to identify those infected, to prevent further spread and reduce harm.
Through online training, the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF) assisted countries in ensuring quality management systems for accurate and reliable COVID-19 results.
As early as March, CMLF had pinpointed the crucial role of laboratories (article here). As it has done for more than a decade of its work on strengthening laboratory services in the Caribbean, the Foundation provided vital information for Ministries of Health, laboratories and health care providers to help guide their decisions. This guidance addressed options for, and benefits of COVID-19 testing to identify persons infected who require treatment and for surveillance of those who may have been infected and recovered.
CMLF also emphasised that COVID-19 illustrated the urgent need for regional governments to adopt national laboratory policies, enact legislation to improve quality and resourcing of public laboratories and monitor the quality of private laboratories to ensure readiness to address public health threats.
CMLF has assisted the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to identify COVID-19 laboratory tests and supplies. To ensure that other critical regional health interventions continue in light of severe supply chain disruptions globally, CMLF continues to collect and share data with partners on regional HIV and Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reagent stocks. The goal is to ensure that HIV and STI diagnostic, treatment and care services continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.