Barbados’ state-of-the-art laboratory at the Ladymeade Reference Unit (LRU), which has been integral in ensuring a dramatic reduction in morbidity and mortality rates attributable to HIV, has been fully accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).

It received its accreditation some three weeks ago.

Medical Director of the laboratory, Dr. Akin Abayomi and his staff, ??started the planning and preparation process three years ago.?? Planning for this accreditation involved the development and implementation of quality management systems that address all areas of laboratory services and processes involving staff, physicians, clinics, safety, quality assurance and quality control. This was followed by the establishment of standard operating procedures.

The Ministry of Health provided the requisite financial support and remained committed to the process.

Dr. Abayomi commended his staff, whom he noted worked "very hard in making this achievement possible". They included Clinical Information Specialist, Songee Branch, Laboratory Technologists, Kelly Carmichael-Simmons, Shauna Chase and?? Latoya Millar; Nurse/Phlebotomist Vera Layne and Former Technologist, Namrata Sippy-Chatrani.

Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Anton Best described the laboratory accreditation as "an outstanding achievement for the Ministry of Health and the staff of the LRU Laboratory". He said: "They ought to be commended for years of preparation and dedication that was required to make this possible."

Dr. Best further noted that accreditation of the laboratory?? might not have been possible without the assistance and guidance of key personnel from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), namely, Dr. Shirley Lecher, Dr. Bharat Parekh and Dr. George Alemnji, and Professor Clive Landis of the Chronic Disease Research Centre of the University of the West Indies.

CAP is a medical society serving more than 17,000 physicians and the laboratory community throughout the world. More than 6,000 laboratories are accredited by the CAP, and approximately 23,000 are enrolled in the College’s proficiency testing programmes.

It is the world’s largest association, comprised exclusively of pathologists certified by the American Board of Pathology, and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance. CAP undertakes the accreditation of laboratories and its members are involved in a broad range of disciplines, including surgical pathology, cytopathology, dermatopathology, neuropathology, forensic pathology, blood banking/ transfusion medicine, clinical chemistry, microbiology, immunopathology, hematology, genetics, and molecular pathology.

The CAP Laboratory Accreditation Programme is an internationally recognised one, based on the CAP Laboratory Accreditation Standards. It incorporates compliance assessment and process improvement into each step of the two-year accreditation cycle. Onsite inspection is used to verify compliance, to assess the overall quality of the laboratory, and to identify deficiencies that can affect the quality of laboratory performance.

The LRU is one of the success stories of Barbados’ Ministry of Health’s Expanded HIV/AIDS Programme.?? Its mandate is to provide HIV prevention and care services as it seeks to stem the HIV epidemic.

The facility was opened in 2002 and comprises the LRU Laboratory and the LRU Clinic. The quality of care provided at the Unit is considered to be the best in the English-speaking Caribbean and is of international standard. It has helped the National AIDS Programme reap tremendous success by providing Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), free of cost, to Barbadians in need of such treatment.

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