Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, has expressed the view that laboratory accreditation should be mandatory, as is done in other territories.
“I think the time has come for us to begin to consider this…the risks are too great,” the Minister emphasised. Currently, labs voluntarily seek out accreditation.
Mr. Hylton was speaking on Tuesday, June 25, at the presentation of an accreditation certificate to Biomedical Caledonia Medical Laboratory, the first medical lab to receive the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JNAAC) stamp of approval.
Stressing the importance of the accreditation, Minister Hylton said Jamaica is on the verge of an economic transformation with the Global Logistics Hub initiative, and that all of the country’s operations must be able to withstand international testing and scrutiny, in order to effectively compete.
“Providing accreditation for our health services will play a major role in that transformation and move us further towards the goals of making Jamaica the choice of place to live, work, raise families and do business,” he explained.
Mr. Hylton added that accreditation of local medical labs to international standards is an important step in improving the quality of the health care for Jamaicans and foreigners.
“Based on the cost/benefit assessment, there is a growing trend for hospitals in the US and the UK to outsource laboratory and diagnostic tests to developing countries, as it costs, on average, 70 to 80 per cent less,” he told the audience.
In her remarks, Chief Executive Officer of JANAAC, Marguerite Domville, emphasised that the process of accreditation is a long one, but an effective health care system is required to: have medical labs that provide accurate results, within the meaningful timeframe that is needed for proper clinical management; and use appropriate lab procedures with respect to ethics, confidentiality and the safety of patients.
“A medical lab accredited to the international standard ISO151 89 will deliver this type of high quality service, because a lot is required to meet this standard,” she stated.
Mrs. Domville pointed out that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that 70 per cent of clinical decision making is influenced by medical laboratory results.
She informed that the medical laboratories requirement for quality and competence standard was developed with strong input from the medical, scientific and clinical international communities for use by medical labs, in developing their management systems, and maintaining their own competencies.
The standard was also developed to allow accreditation bodies to confirm, or recognise the competence of these labs, through accreditation.
“JANAAC, in conducting these assessments for accreditation, has used a team of technical experts to assess Biomedical lab and is satisfied that they have obtained objective evidence that indicate that this laboratory has satisfied all the criteria specified in this international standard, so you can feel confident when you use their services,” the CEO stated.
As part of the accreditation process, there will be three consecutive years of surveillance, including review assessments, to ensure that the lab continues to fulfill the requirements, and at the end of four years, there will be a full reassessment, which is similar to the initial assessment, to ascertain the lab’s competence.
Biomedical is the first medical lab in Jamaica to be accredited by JNAAC. The accreditation agency has so far awarded six accreditations to labs which have met the requirements of the international standard ISO/IEC 17-025. These labs are mainly concerned with food and environmental testing.