Cabinet has given the go-ahead for Barbados to seek membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

According to Health Minister, John Boyce, such membership would assist Barbados in developing comprehensive strategies to address radio-nuclear threats.

He was speaking today at the opening ceremony of the National Laboratory Policy Consultation at the headquarters of the Pan American Health Organisation.

The Health Minister told the audience that Government was committed to augmenting laboratory services in order to maintain a high standard of care.

To this end, the Ministry of Health facilitated the development of a comprehensive strategic plan and policy for medical laboratories.??This plan, he said, guided the systematic implementation of laboratory standards in both the public and private sector medical and public health laboratories.

Mr. Boyce said: ???Experience has taught us that maintaining a functional and effective national health laboratory structure is a complex undertaking that requires the appropriate policy, training and regulatory framework.???

As a result, he explained, the Caribbean Meds Labs Foundation facilitated the development of a regional framework for national laboratory policy, which was endorsed by the Chief Medical Officers of the region and the Council for Human and Social Development.

The objective of the consultation therefore, he said, was to develop a national laboratory policy based on the regionally agreed framework ???which will support strong, quality assured and sustainable medical laboratory services by identifying and defining key responsibilities at governance and operational levels.???

Deliverables expected from the policy are national standards and regulations for laboratory operations, as well as active encouragement of evidence-informed decision-making and quality improvement, Mr. Boyce disclosed. He added that when completed, the policy should be a comprehensive document which addressed all the critical areas for reliable laboratory services.

Barbados is currently in the process of amalgamating three of its public health laboratories ??? the Public Health Laboratory, the Leptospirosis Laboratory and the Ladymeade Reference Unit. The construction of the new Barbados National Reference Laboratory is being funded by a Bds$12 million contribution from the United States Government and a Bds$6 million contribution from the Government of Barbados.

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