Photo Front Row L to R: Deputy Director Lab Services MOH Dr David Nsama, Dr Charles Holmes, Provincial Principal Clinical Care Specialist Dr Wajirovya Chilambo, Country Director CDC Dr Jim McAuley, District Medical Officer Dr Gideon Zulu
Official Handover of the Refurbished Laboratory of the Chawama Level One Hospital
24th September 2015
It gives me great pleasure to join you today as the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia – CIDRZ – joins with the United States Government represented by the Country Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr Jim McAuley, as we officially handover the refurbished laboratory to the Zambian Government through the Chawama First Level Hospital. This momentous event could not take place without the contributions and support for Zambia generously received from the United States and the solid partnership we have established with the Government of Zambia.
CIDRZ was established as collaboration between the University of Zambia, the University of Alabama, and the then Director of the Lusaka District Health Management Board, Dr. Moses Sinkala. CIDRZ became an independent Zambian non-governmental organisation in 2011, with assistance from the CDC and other organisations, and has a mission of supporting health program implementation, conducting locally-relevant research, and to serve as a resource for training the next generation of public health and research leaders locally. I am happy to say that each of the three legs of our mission are thriving and resting on a firm foundation of management practices and governance. Most importantly, all of this work is done with the closest collaboration with our colleagues in the Government of the Republic of Zambia, whose lead we take, and whose vision for a healthier Zambia we share.
A key interest of CIDRZ is to support the Zambian Governments’ efforts to strengthen healthcare training and systems so that high-quality clinical healthcare is available to ALL Zambians as stated in our Vision of “a Zambia, and a region, in which all people have access to quality healthcare and enjoy the best possible health, including a life free from AIDS.”
However, high-quality healthcare is not possible without high-quality laboratory testing services. Clinical laboratories are sophisticated and complicated environments and require sufficient space, light and infrastructure, specialized laboratory personnel and well-functioning and validated instruments, and a robust supply chain. When a patient agrees to having a blood test they do so with trust; they trust that their specimen will be treated carefully and seriously – that the laboratory specialist will quickly perform the correct testing so that an accurate and trustworthy result is provided to the clinician. The result of a single blood test can change a life and it is of utmost importance that the laboratory result is one that can be trusted, and that it is provided in as fast a time as possible. That is our challenge and our opportunity as we all support this work.
In 2014, the Government of the Republic of Zambia – as part of their ongoing support for improved maternal and child health services – constructed a new maternity wing to accommodate the growing population of Chawama. Chawama Hospital Management then approached CIDRZ and requested for assistance in renovating and refurbishing the old labour ward into a new and larger laboratory so as to increase testing space and overall lab capacity. With generous funding received from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CIDRZ has been proud to contribute to this exercise so that now the Chawama First Level Hospital has a spacious clinical laboratory to better serve the local community.
Important work to refurbish existing infrastructure to provide the needed services such as this was made possible because it is part of the United States Governments’ CDC and PEPFAR program transition to local Zambian ownership. The refurbished laboratory that we will officially open today is a success story of collaboration and development, and heralds other similar transition work that is currently taking place – again through support of the U.S. government – at other CIDRZ-supported Government of the Republic of Zambia health facilities in Eastern, Western, Southern and Lusaka Province. In addition I would like to commend the work of CIDRZ colleagues Mpande Mwenechanya, Bernadette Nyemba, Mabvuto Phiri and Vina Chilengi who made this lab transition and this opening event today possible.
As is usual practice during any laboratory transition activity, the CIDRZ Lab Technical Mentors assist with training and systems, and will continue to support the Chawama Laboratory staff until all are comfortable with the requisite testing skills and there is a constant availability of reagents to ensure a seamless lab service to the community. Even after full transition to Chawama, CIDRZ will be available to provide technical support if, and as, necessary.
Prior to this refurbishment, the Chawama Health Centre laboratory was small and cramped, and samples from this populated community had to be transported across the city for testing at the CIDRZ Central Lab in Kalingalinga.
But now, with the refurbished laboratory, the Chawama Level One Hospital Lab personnel are able to perform on-site testing for haematology and chemistry and provide these results to patients, as well as CD4 T-cell count assays for new anti-retroviral treatment (ART) patient enrollees.
While laboratory personnel are perhaps less visible to the general public, and even to those that attend a health centre, we must all recognize that the work they do is crucial to the correct detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease. High-quality laboratory services are therefore a core pillar in the Zambian HIV/AIDS response.
I am pleased that CIDRZ has been able to play a role in the development of the Chawama Laboratory so that it is now becoming one of the largest Level 1 facility labs in the district. It will not only have the capacity to perform all laboratory testing on-site, but in the near future will have the capacity to even serve as a referral lab for other health centers in the District.
This is an exciting day and I am pleased that CIDRZ can be part of the country’s efforts to promote quality health care, including laboratory services. I applaud the Zambian and the United States governments and the other supporting partners many of whom are here today that made this success, and will make future successes possible as we continue to work together to fulfil our vision of bringing quality healthcare to all Zambians.
Dr Charles Holmes MD, MPH
CIDRZ Director and Chief Executive Officer