Barbados lab reaches global standard

The Best Dos-Santos Public Health Laboratory has been officially recognised as a National Influenza Centre and a member of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.

The designation means that the lab can now undertake special diagnostics and provide critical data in the fight against influenza and future pandemics.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said she could not be more proud of the achievement.

Speaking during the ceremony of recognition on Monday, she said the laboratory’s new designation showed the world at large that it had reached global standards.

“That’s the most important part. Trust in a world where, even from social media with the volume of fake news, from people peddling fake goods, where people can create things that are not what they say they are. Therefore, for us to have a lab that can be truly trusted with respect to its results . . . .

“It doesn’t mean that there’s always perfection, but it means the systems and the processes are those that are worthy of trust. And that if something goes wrong, we can easily and quickly determine what has happened in order to get back on the straight and narrow path,” the Prime Minister said.

She added that continued investment in the public lab was important to ensure Barbados developed cutting-edge access to its health care. She also pledged to ensure that citizens had the best opportunities to remain in their land of birth when pursuing opportunities in the field of science.

“This country cannot continue to invest, as we are doing, millions and millions of dollars by ensuring that our citizens can be the best that they can be by studying at the University of West Indies, and then not have opportunities to remain in the land of their birth.

“Those persons with degrees, without opportunity and capacity will come to naught and therefore the ability to have continuity of policy, especially in the social sector and economic sectors, but continuity of policy across governments, is a critical aspect of the political stability of our nation,” Mottley said.

The recognition ceremony was held at the Best Dos-Santos lab in Martindales Road, St Michael, in collaboration with the WHO, the Pan American Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

The lab was officially recognised by WHO last October 31, marking it as one of three in the English-speaking Caribbean to attain that honour.

Director of the laboratory, The Most Honourable Dr Songee Beckles, reflected on the journey, which began in 2008, to gaining the WHO recognition, but added that this milestone was but one step.

“This is just one thing; we are raring and ready to go. We want to continue to enhance our AMR [antimicrobial resistance] surveillance. The next big thing on our horizon for this year is becoming a WHO collaboration centre for AMR.

“[We are] looking mainly at the training of other scientists in the region as well as continuing to support the AMR external quality assessment programme, as well as becoming a WHO, HIV drug-resistant genotyping laboratory. We have all the backbone of everything there, we just need to step and get to everything we need to get there. We want to do other stuff,” she said. (JRN)

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