Six medical laboratories in Malawi attain inter1 accreditation

Lilongwe, July 15, Mana: Government has hailed medical laboratories in the country for their commitment towards improving the quality of services in various sectors that include health and laboratory in particular.

Minister of Health, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda made the remarks on Wednesday in Lilongwe when she presented accreditation awards from Southern Africa Development Community Accreditation Services (SADCAS) to six medical laboratories in Malawi.

The laboratories were accredited for meeting the quality management systems under Inter1 Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 15189.

Chiponda said it was important to award the laboratories for the role they play in disease prevention, control and response to epidemics as well as health research.

She said the development can be affirmed by the many examples the country has witnessed since it registered its first COVID-19 case.

“The [laboratory] institutions have helped a lot to deal with and reverse the situation of COVID-19 in the country and that the accreditation is timely.

“It is my ministry's goal to have all ten existing HIV testing molecular laboratories accredited at the rate of two per year, by 2024,” said Chiponda.

She said the importance of accreditation was that laboratories meet defined quality performance standards covering all aspects of laboratory management which include continual improvements in sample collection, testing, and results analysis among other aspects.

The accreditation means that Malawi now has six accredited medical laboratories, the 1 HIV Reference Laboratory in Lilongwe, Partners in Hope in Lilongwe, Balaka Dream in Balaka, Blantyre Dream, Mwaiwathu and Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust, all in Blantyre.

“Though the plan appears ambitious, together with our partners we have worked so hard that today we are boasting of surpassing the performance target and have achieved accreditation of at least four laboratories in a year,” said Chiponda.

The Health Minister said the accreditation status implies that the managers of other laboratories have a goal to achieve and must be inspired to learn, organise and improve to be accredited.

“I am very sure that in a year’s time, we will come here with a longer list of awardees than today because others have proved its doable,” said the minister.

On her part, Principal Investigator, Professor Alashle Abimuku from the University of Maryland Bartimore (UMB) who provides technical and financial support in the SADCAS accreditation, thanked the ministry for the great support towards the journey.

Abimuku said UMB supports Malawi and 13 other Southern African Nations. It offers technical support to the Malawi Government in the area of laboratory accreditation.

“The ISO 15189 represents an inter1 index for high quality and reliable processes and test results applied to medical laboratories.

"It is the intention of UMB to stay longer and address all health issues bound to happen,” said Abimuku.

Officials from Balaka and Blantyre DREAM Program pose for a photo with their accreditation certificates

In an interview, Quality Manager for Balaka Dream Laboratory which was one of the awardees, Fredrick Namaya, said it had been a long journey but worth pursuing for the betterment of the nation and its citizens.

“For a laboratory to be accredited, it takes a lot of effort, determination, commitment, discipline, resources and time. Our laboratory staff members have shown great resilience and discipline through this long journey that continues.

“Looking forward, we commit to deliver good quality services to maintain but also continue improving the standards,” said Namaya.

As of May, 2021, there were about 560 accredited laboratories in Africa, according to SADCAS officials.

Chiponda then thanked the US Government for the financial support provided by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through laboratory capacity strengthening and cooperative initiatives.