Groundwork for first national public health laboratory system

24 Jun 2013 07:50
WINDHOEK, 24 JUN (NAMPA) - Groundwork for the establishment of the first national public health laboratory system in Namibia has begun, and a construction site has been secured.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi here on Monday, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry, Dr Norbert Foster made the announcement during the launch of the National Public Health Laboratory Policy.
Kamwi said the health ministry committed N.dollars 35 million, while the United States of America President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-Namibia, has committed N.dollars 15 million for the next two years towards the equipping of the facility.
?There has been no policy or guidelines and system in place for information sharing and data capturing from this network of laboratories for public health consumption. Therefore, in order to address this challenge, the National Public Health Laboratory Policy was developed with the purpose to establish a National Public Health Laboratory System, which will provide the framework for the Integrated Laboratory Data Management Systems and the establishment of the Public Health Laboratory Network in Namibia,? he noted.
Namibia has a network of 58 clinical laboratories in both the public and private sector, with 38 of the public laboratories falling under the Namibia Institute for Pathology (NIP). The remaining laboratories are shared by seven laboratory chains, namely Pathcare, Clinpath, CPC Laboratories, Oshana, High Care, Mixmed and the Namibia Blood Transfusion Services (NAMBTS).
Kamwi explained that the development of the National Public Health Laboratory Policy for an integrated laboratory system in Namibia was born out of the need to strengthen the entire healthcare system and infrastructure, and provide a comprehensive network of laboratory services throughout the country, in so doing reducing reliance on South Africa.
The minister also called upon the private sector to collaborate with his ministry in funding the construction of the National Public Health Laboratory System.
Although Namibia is faced with challenges regarding limited human resources, laboratories require the services of highly skilled workers who can collect, clean, analyse, and synthesise data for clinicians, policy planners and decision-makers. The Polytechnic of Namibia and the University of Namibia (Unam) have been training future laboratory scientists.
Kamwi stressed that Namibia was forced to rely on neighbouring South Africa for confirmation and characterisation of outbreaks and diseases, which has often been inconvenient, too expensive, and the results not obtained quickly enough to support prompt action.
Namibia is also a signatory to several World Health Organisation (WHO) resolutions which call for the strengthening of the Public Health Laboratory System and establishment of a functional National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL).
According to Kamwi, the policy and its strategic plan documents were developed with the support of various national, regional and international partners and experts in the fields of medicine, laboratory sciences and management, and epidemiology.
Meanwhile, at the same occasion, CDC-Namibia Country Director Dr David Lowrance said the policy document provides a broad framework and guidance for the development, implementation and monitoring of activities at all levels of the health system.
?Investing more in public health, focusing on high impact, evidenced-based interventions, informing decisions with research and surveillance, will prevent disease, avoid outbreaks, and promote healthy lifestyles. These interventions are essential if we hope to improve health outcomes and transform Namibia?s health system into one ready to tackle the challenges of the future,? he added.