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Health workers at public laboratory exposed to hazardous chemicals and fumes

Published:Wednesday | December 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Auditor General's Department says there's a high risk that workers at the National Public Health Laboratory are being exposed to hazardous chemicals and fumes. 

It appears this has been the situation for more than a year. 


More in this report from Jovan Johnson.

In a report tabled in Parliament yesterday, the Auditor General found that employees in the histology department were working under uncomfortable and hazardous conditions.

According to the report, the department appears to have outgrown its space as samples waiting to be tested were stored on the floor and under tables.

In addition, the report said there was a high risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals and fumes circulating in the air.

This is because of the absence of a functioning laboratory fume extraction system.

The Auditor General says the laboratory reported that its extraction system has not been working for over a year due to reported electrical problems.

She did not list the number of employees and types of harzadous chemicals. 

However, Munroe Ellis says the Health Ministry and the lab have indicated that efforts are under way to among other things, replace outdated equipment, refurbish cold rooms, improve the central cooling system, and provide laboratory supplies. 

Based on the report, the facility has been affected by limited resources and the absence of national accreditation because of impending changes to the Health Facilities (Medical Laboratories) Act.

The National Public Health Laboratory – Jamaica's primary government agency for laboratory services – plays a central role in monitoring public health conditions and national disaster responses.

The Auditor General had audited the lab to assess its impact on the timely and effective delivery of health care, in particular the adequacy of lab equipment, physical infrastructure and related tools.

She also examined the processes and procedures as well as the certification and accreditation of the lab.

Meanwhile, Opposition Spokesperson on Health, Senator Marlene Malahoo-Forte, says the situation at the National Public Health Laboratory is unacceptable.

She says it highlights the poor state of health facilities across Jamaica.