According to the Minister of Health, Richard Kamwi the development of the National Public Health Laboratory Policy for an integrated laboratory system in Namibia was born out of the need to strengthen the entire health care system and infrastructure and to provide comprehensive network of laboratory services throughout the country, and reduce the country’s reliance on South Africa.
“Precision of results obtained through advanced technology and expertise can reduce fear and assure trust and confidence in the hearts of those that are at the receiving end which are the patients”, said Kamwi.
Kamwi said that there are major challenges still facing the health care system such as providing accurate and timely laboratory results to identify the cause of diseases as well as provide a diagnoses and treatment.
“In order to address these challenges and manage a successful surveillance and response system depends on a strengthened laboratory support system, one [that is] able to diagnose outbreaks and diseases to guide interventions in the shortest possible time,” said Kamwi.
He added that Namibia has waited far too long and was denied the privilege of having its own intergraded laboratory system, due to the fragmented system inherited from the apartheid era. “Instead we have been forced to rely on our neighbour South Africa for confirmation and characterisation of outbreaks and diseases, which has often been inconvenient, too expensive and the results not obtained quickly enough to support prompt action,” he said.
Namibia has a network of 58 clinical laboratories in both the public and the private sector, with 38 of the public laboratories under the Namibia Institute for Pathology (NIP). The remaining are shared by seven main laboratory chains, namely Pathcare, Clinpath, CPC, Oshana, High Care, Maxi med and the Namibia Blood Transfusion Services.
Kamwi added there have been no policy or guidelines and system in place for information sharing and data capturing from these network laboratories for public health consumption. “Therefore, in order to address this challenge, the National Public Health Laboratory Policy was developed with the purpose to establish a National Public Health Laboratory Systems and the establishment of the Public Health Laboratory Network in Namibia.”
Dr David Lowrance, the country director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention at the US embassy congratulated the government for providing quality health care to all.
Lowrance said that the laboratories in Namibia operated for over two decades without a formal laboratory policy system.
With reference to the launch of the National Public Health Laboratory Policy, Lowrance said that Namibia is among the highest TB notifications in the world and that the country cannot always rely on South Africa for advance healthcare facilities.
The site for the construction of the Public Health Laboratory has already been secured by the Ministry of Health and Kamwi called on the private sector to collaborate with his ministry in funding the construction of the facility, as his ministry cannot continue relying on donor funding alone to improve the quality of health services in the country.