JIS News

A Bill to provide for the establishment of a Medical Laboratories Council to regulate and control the activities of medical laboratories and collection centres across the island is now before the Upper House for consideration.
Piloting the provision on Friday (Nov.11) Information Minister and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Burchell Whiteman said the provision was geared towards ensuring quality assurance and standards for medical laboratories, which form an important element of the country’s health services.
Senator Whiteman said apart from the national public laboratories, several medical laboratories, collection centres and testing sites were now operating in the island without a licence and without a regulative or administrative machinery to monitor them. There are 51 medical laboratories and 77 collection centres or testing sites in Jamaica.
He told the Senate that between 2000 and 2003 some 1.3 million to 1.7 million tests were conducted in public health laboratories, largely in the areas of chemistry, haematology and microbiology.
As such he noted the Health Facilities Medical Laboratory Bill was aimed at providing for the establishment of a Medical Laboratories Council, which would regulate and control the activities of medical laboratories and collection centres across the island, and establish compulsory standards, which reflect regional and international standards.
Senator Whiteman said while it was a fact that the quality of the island’s public and private laboratories varied widely “it has been long recognized that there was a need to regularize, standardize and improve the general management of medical laboratories wherever there are,” as they were critical to disease control and prevention, and patient management.
The Minister said although the Bill was intended to address standards, quality, management and licensing it was not intended that the Council would license public laboratories, which operate under the Ministry of Health and are provided for under the constitutional arrangements for the Ministry.
He noted however that they would be covered under the same monitoring and the enforcement of standards that would be required of all the private laboratories in the country.
In the meantime Senator Whiteman said, the Council would also be empowered to assess the facilities and their records to ensure compliance with the Act and ensure that the standards were maintained. He informed that aside from the provision of the legislation there was a major project ongoing, which is supported by the European Union.
The project involves a number of countries and is aimed at improving the quality of medical laboratories in the region and rationalizing the services provided by them. This is to ensure a better spread and optimal use of the facilities and more improved operations, consistent with the required international standards.
He informed among the requirements of the project were that all countries should provide the appropriate legislative framework for the operation of the medical laboratories. To that end the Information Minister said, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are front runners in terms of management and monitoring of their facilities.
“We are moving beyond imposition of standards, monitoring of standards, ensuring of standards to accreditation so that anywhere in the world you go, you will know that a particular laboratory is accredited by an appropriate standards body,” Senator Whiteman said.
He further noted that while the Bureau of Standards Jamaica was the local standards body for laboratories, it was expected that this would change over time with the Council eventually becoming the monitoring body. The debate was suspended until the next sitting of the Senate.
While there are several government operated laboratories currently in operation, the National Public Health Laboratory on Slipe Pen Road in Kingston is the major national public health laboratory.