New Labs to Improve Disease Surveillance in Kenya

Public laboratories will be built across Kenya to improve disease surveillance, Kenya’s ministry of Public Health said yesterday. Permanent secretary Mark Bor said tendering for the laboratories has began and assessors are being trained for the project. The labs will be built in Busia, Machakos, Wajir, Malindi and Kitale. “The need for accurate laboratory diagnosis that is accessible to most people is now a top priority,” Bor said in a speech read by the Director of Disease Prevention Dr Willis Akhwale.

He was speaking Nairobi ahead of the International Medical Laboratories World Accreditation Day to be marked next Thursday. Bor said the country has inadequate labs to respond to regional threats of infectious diseases.

Kenya has recently been hit by polio and measles outbreaks, all attributed to porous borders and poor disease surveillance. “Lost time in cases of infectious diseases leads to undetected spread across national borders,” he said.

The PS said currently wait time in some laboratories tests runs into weeks, delaying treatment for patients with multi-drug resistant diseases like cancer and tuberculosis.

Next week’s World Accreditation Day is being organised in Kenya by Family Health International, an NGO with regional offices in Nairobi, and the Kenya Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists Board. KMLTTB supervises and controls training and practice of lab technicians in the country. The event is important because currently Kenya has only four internationally accredited laboratories.

These are the Path Care Nairobi, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya Vaccine Initiative Laboratory and Kericho based Walter Reed Laboratory.

Yesterday’s meeting was also briefly addressed by Medical Services minister Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, who called for the upgrade of local laboratories. “Labs need to be properly accredited to ensure laboratory results are efficient,” he said.

Accreditation verifies that laboratories have achieved internationally accepted standards in terms of equipment and operations. Acting director of KMLTTB Michael Wanga said the process was among reforms being taken by the board. “There is no way we can engage in attaining global standards if we don’t clean up our house in the province of medical laboratory practice in Kenya,” he said.

In his speech, Bor said three national labs were in the accreditation process. Others are seven labs in provincial hospitals and three high volume labs in district hospitals.