Accreditation is a “Dream Come True” for Laboratory in Northern Uganda

October 11th, 2022 | News


High-quality laboratory services contribute to measurable improvements in key Ugandan indicators for HIV; tuberculosis; malaria; maternal, newborn, and child health; family planning; and nutrition. Laboratory services improve availability and accessibility of health services, and ultimately contribute to improved health systems for quality services.

The USAID-funded Regional Health Integration to Enhance Services (RHITES-N, Lango) project supported the Lira Regional Referral Hospital (RRH) laboratory to attain accreditation from the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS).

The journey to accreditation was not easy. It began in 2016, when staff enrolled in the training for Strengthening Laboratory Management Toward Accreditation and Stepwise Laboratory Improvement Process Toward Accreditation by the Ministry of Health (MOH). The lab received a three-star rating, and based on a standards checklist, was recommended for African Society of Laboratory Medicine certification in 2017.

In 2019, however, the laboratory grappled with human resource gaps, with only 43 percent (11 of 26) staff positions filled, and only one person attached to the microbiology section. There were inadequate supplies, inconsistent testing, and delayed result reporting.

In 2020, following the COVID-19 outbreak, Geoffrey Achellam, the quality officer at the laboratory, said the lab didn’t apply for accreditation because it was focused on maintaining services and scaling up COVID-19 testing. In 2021, a preliminary assessment conducted by the MOH showed key gaps in all 12 essential elements of the Laboratory Quality Management System. The assessment report recommended improvement in teamwork and cooperation to fill the gaps. Through mentorship from RHITES-N, Lango project, the team developed systems and manuals to do so.

Geoffrey Achellam processes CD4 samples
Geoffrey Achellam, the laboratory quality officer processing CD4 samples. Photo by Barbara Akite for JSI

Additionally, RHITES-N, Lango supported recruitment of five staff, and strengthened the team’s capacity through trainings on biosecurity, corrective and preventive actions, and quality management. Each quarter, project staff conducted management reviews and internal audits to ensure that the laboratory was on track to accreditation. The project also procured and supplied stationery, laboratory test reagents, test kits, and equipment such as a GeneXpert machine, a biosafety cabinet, smoke detectors, power back up, and biometric systems.

In September 2022, with RHITES-N, Lango’s support, Lira RRH laboratory was finally recommended for SANAS accreditation, following other RRHs (Fort Portal and Masaka), which were accredited in 2017.

“This is a dream come true for us as a laboratory. We wouldn’t have reached this level if RHITES-N, Lango project had not streamlined the tests, mentored and supported us with more staff, supplies, and equipment. We have put Lira RRH on the global map. Our clients and staff are very happy and the hospital director has pledged total support in order to enable us sustain the accreditation.” Geoffrey Achellam

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