Lessons from the Field

Strengthening laboratory networks in the Central Africa region: A milestone for epidemic preparedness and response

Patrick A. Njukeng, Charles Njumkeng, Callistus Ntongowa, Mohammed Abdulaziz
African Journal of Laboratory Medicine | Vol 11, No 1 | a1492 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajlm.v11i1.1492 | © 2022 Patrick A Njukeng, Charles Njumkeng, Callistus Ntongowa, Mohammed Abdulaziz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 December 2020 | Published: 19 May 2022

About the author(s)

Patrick A. Njukeng, Global Health Systems Solutions, Douala, Cameroon
Charles Njumkeng, Global Health Systems Solutions, Douala, Cameroon
Callistus Ntongowa, Global Health Systems Solutions, Douala, Cameroon
Mohammed Abdulaziz, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


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Abstract

Background: Health systems in the Central Africa region are among the weakest and least funded in the world. The lack of laboratory networks and adequately trained personnel with clearly defined responsibilities has hampered the implementation of laboratory quality improvement programmes. Global Health Systems Solutions (GHSS) obtained a grant from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to develop laboratory networks for disease surveillance and strengthen the quality of laboratory testing in the Central Africa region.

Intervention: One year after the grant was awarded on 01 October 2018, GHSS has launched a Regional Integrated Surveillance and Laboratory Network (RISLNET) for Central Africa and developed National Laboratory Strategic Plans and Policies for member states, eight frameworks and guideline documents, as well as a website for RISLNET Central Africa. GHSS has also launched an Extension for Community Health Outcomes platform to supervise laboratories enrolled for accreditation, installed a Basic Laboratory Information System (BLIS) in four laboratories in four member states, and trained 247 laboratory personnel and laboratory experts on BLIS, quality assurance, external quality assurance, Strengthening Laboratory Management Towards Accreditation (SLMTA), quality management systems, and equipment maintenance and calibration.

Lessons learnt: Participating laboratories now serve as reference laboratories for COVID-19 testing in various countries. Point-of-care testing, using the GeneXpert platform, has been the central strategy for the scale-up of COVID-19 testing in the Central Africa region.

Recommendations: Expanding SLMTA to other laboratories within Central Africa will significantly improve the quality management of laboratories for a better healthcare system.

 


Keywords

COVID 19; laboratory; health system; strengthening; network; quality; management; response

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