HEALTH MINISTER Dr Fenton Ferguson has expressed satisfaction with the progress of work being undertaken to modernise the facilities and provisions of the National Public Health Laboratory and National Blood Transfusion Service (Blood Bank).
Upwards of $21 million has been spent on both institutions since December 2011, to undertake significant rehabilitation and upgrading works, which is being funded through a $60-million allocation from the National Health Fund (NHF).
The works include: repairs to the roofs of both institutions at a cost of $10.5 million; insulation of the air-conditioning pipelines at the lab at a cost of $1.3 million; procurement and installation of four new air handler units - $6 million; procurement and installation of equipment to improve the lab's system of treatment and control of tuberculosis at just under $1 million; general rehabilitation of the lab's histopathology suite and renovation of the old incinerator building to store specimen at over $6 million; and procurement of a refrigerator for the Blood Bank for blood storage, at just over $1.7 million.
Addressing the staff of the lab on Tuesday following a tour of the Slipe Pen Road facility, Dr Ferguson said the modernisation effort forms a "critical" part of the ministry's mandate.
"Your institution and the Blood Bank are two critical institutions in relation to how we deliver quality care to our patients and clients. Unless we improve, significantly, the work here and at the Blood Bank, much of the efforts at the hospitals or the clinics are (going to be) in vain, (especially) if you have to wait six months or a year to get back results from specimens.
"So, however well we might improve the hospital and health centre infrastructure and manpower, if we are not looking at the throughput at this level ... we will have problems," he stated.
Dr Ferguson also expressed gratitude to the NHF which, he said, has been "understanding" of the needs and priorities of the health sector, and has been "very cooperative" in allocating $60 million to facilitate the works.
"In (going) forward, the objective is to set up an autonomous institution ... that will allow you (at the lab) to become the best in the Caribbean, and beyond," the minister said.
Director, National Public Health Laboratory, Dr Lundie Richards, said other project activities which remain to be implemented include: procurement and installation of two new industrial size autoclaves at a cost of over $10.6 million, at the lab, to enhance the building's maintenance and functions; and procurement of a new vitech machine at a cost of $13 million, for use in the diagnosis of various types of microbiological agents and controlling infection.
These, he informed, are expected to be in place by the end of February, while expressing the hope that the facility can source additional funding to undertake other activities.