JIS News

Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman has informed of a project to join the standards bodies of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to form the core of a regional accreditation agency.
The Information Minister said this body would apply International Organization for Standardization (ISO) guidelines within Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago and ultimately within the rest of CARICOM.
Senator Whiteman was responding to comments raised by Opposition Senator Shirley Williams in the Upper House on Friday (Nov. 25) in her contribution to the debate on Bill for the establishment of Medical Laboratories Council, which would regulate and control the activities of medical laboratories and collection centres.
Senator Williams, in her remarks, had called for the establishment of a local accreditation agency for laboratories, which would be internationally recognized and in line with ISO standards.
She noted that while the Bureau of Standards was the recognized standards body for laboratories, “there was an important distinction between a standards body and an accreditation body”.
“In Jamaica today, we do not have a national accreditation body. Over the years, the Bureau has performed the roles (but) it has never been and is not now an internationally recognized accreditation body,” she stated.
Senator Williams pointed out, that the lack of an international recognized accreditation body had implications for exports, as the trade partners were at liberty to detain Jamaican products on the grounds that they did not recognize the testing facilities.
She noted that while the Health Ministry had done well in making the first step, urgent collaboration must ensue with the Commerce, Science and Technology Ministry through its National Infrastructure Quality Programme, which aims to establish a national accreditation body.
According to Senator Williams, Jamaica was “lagging behind the rest of the Caribbean in this respect”.She further called on the Ministry of Finance and Planning to allot further funding to allow public health laboratories to be able to procure resources in a timely manner to operate expeditiously.
Senator Whiteman, who piloted the Bill, conceded that there was a distinction between a standards and an accreditation body. He however pointed out that Jamaica was not lagging behind other Caribbean countries, but agreed that it was important to move from certification and licensing to the next stage of accreditation.
The Bill, which was passed with one amendment, is aimed at the establishment of a Medical Laboratories Council to regulate and control the activities of medical laboratories and collection centres across the island, and establish compulsory standards, which reflect regional and international norms.
The Council would also be empowered to assess the facilities and their records to ensure compliance with the Act and ensure that the standards are maintained.
Senator Whiteman noted that apart from the national public laboratories, there were several medical laboratories, collection centres and testing sites operating in the island without a licence to carry out such activity and without a regulating or administrative machinery to monitor them. Presently, there are 51 medical laboratories and 77 collection centres or testing sites in Jamaica.