High Quality Laboratory Services Key – Stern


State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Michael Stern has underscored the importance of high quality service being provided by accredited medical laboratories to key sectors of the economy.
Speaking at the closing and awards ceremony for the Laboratory Accreditation Technical Assistance Programme at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on Friday (February 22), Mr. Stern said the health, sports, and tourism sectors, as well as the judicature are the key areas which depend greatly on credible laboratory services. “The quality of medical services offered can affect the survival of this critical (tourism) industry, as a country’s ability to quickly detect and investigate outbreaks of illnesses can affect the continued flow of visitors. The lack of quick response results in panic, which, invariably, leads to the loss of millions of dollars in cancelled visitor activities,” he noted.
The State Minister cited as an example an estimated US$150,000 loss in earnings, which the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) reported was sustained by one CARICOM country as a result of an outbreak of Legionnaires disease in 1996.
Mr. Stern said that credible laboratory services also underpinned the quality of justice which is afforded, and cited as an example how “the police investigating the death of Pakistan (cricket) coach – Bob Woolmer during (the) World Cup Cricket tournament was put in an embarrassing position because of the questionable service offered by supporting laboratories.”
Accreditation of a laboratory by a competent authority, Mr. Stern pointed out, validated that facility’s technical competence, certifying it as having met all of the pre-requisites consistent with stipulated standards.
“Jamaica’s accreditation body, the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) follows international practice in determining the technical competence of a particular laboratory. A team of specialist assessors is used to conduct a thorough evaluation of all factors that will affect the production of test data in a particular laboratory,” he advised. The criteria used in this case, he further said, would be based on the internationally accepted ISO 15189 standard for laboratories.
Mr. Stern disclosed that the process of international recognition for Jamaica’s accreditation services has commenced with the establishment of JANAAC as the recognized national agency for conformity assessment bodies. He added that the body has also been accepted as a member of the Inter-American Accreditation Cooperation (IAAC), and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).
“Once JANAAC signs a multilateral arrangement with these bodies, laboratories accredited by JANAAC will receive international recognition, thereby allowing data to be more readily accepted on overseas markets,” the State Minister informed.
Some 50 laboratory personnel from 16 private and public sector labs across the island, who participated in a series of training workshops between July and December 2007 under the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) technical assistance programme, were presented with certificates. The training workshops were aimed at upgrading their skills and services to the ISO 15189 international standard.
The NQI project is a joint undertaken between the Governments of Jamaica and Sweden. It is implemented through the Swedish Board for Accreditation and Conformity Assessment (SWEDAC), an agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sweden. To date, the Swedish government has spent upwards of $75M to assist in upgrading Jamaica’s national quality infrastructure.

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