By Mark Kawalya
A group of laboratory experts convened to create, review and approve a COVID-19 manual that will act as a guide for laboratories in the progressive improvement of quality management systems.
Laboratory external and internal quality assurance programs (EQA and IQA) are a means of ensuring that quality, timely and accurate results are disbursed from testing laboratories with the objective of improving patient care. Covid-19 diagnosing technology has dramatically evolved since the discovery of the disease in 2019.
This speedy evolution is not without issues, and one is that a number of errors can happen, which require watertight regulation and monitoring of the testing technologies to ensure continuous performance improvement of the testing infrastructure. A workaround for this is instituting a stringent and consistent external quality assurance program, coupled with a proper root cause analysis carried out along with remedial actions instituted for non-compliant labs.
Antigen based, Rapid Diagnostics and Polymerase Chain Reaction have been validated in Uganda and passed for testing in clinical care. Uganda currently has 43 Ministry of Health approved laboratories that conduct Covid-19 PCR testing.
Currently, the Uganda Virus Institute Covid-19 National Reference Laboratory alongside the National Quality Assurance Committee has passed and carried out three types of EQA, which are Proficiency Testing Panel, Re-testing, and site-based supervision.
Previously, July 2021 saw controversy regarding the divergent results that were being generated across different labs in Uganda and those from destination countries of migrant workers.
A breakdown of objectives of the workshop
-Underline the background to the development, review and approval of the COVID-19 Laboratory Manual.
– Carry out meticulous and systematic review of the COVID-19 Laboratory quality manual.
– Do a complete review and implementation of the COVID-19 Laboratory manual.
– Research on the current information and developments regarding COVID-19 diagnostics, prevalence trends, mortality, and vaccines.
-Equip participants, especially from private laboratories with up-to-date quality management systems for molecular diagnostics with a focus on COVID19 PCR testing.
The workshop was important because the National COVID-19 Laboratory assessment and activation team lacked a legal document that would guide the laboratories’ assessment and accreditation.
A number of laboratories in Uganda work independently, especially in terms of COVID-19 testing, which necessitates such facilities to be guided on how to develop quality management systems through well-structured and reviewed legally approved documentation.