18 January 2013

Tanzania: Minister Touts Tightening of Screws On Labs

THE Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, has directed the newly inaugurated Private Health Laboratory Board (PHLB) to review existing laws so that it supervises and registers all laboratories in the country.

Dr Mwinyi gave this directive during a short ceremony to launch the new board, saying that it should immediately start reviewing and amending all laws, regulations and guidelines to cope with changes that have risen.The Private Health Laboratories Regulation Act was enacted in 1997 with a view of improving laboratory services to ensure that quality services are rendered throughout the country.

"Health sector reforms need to be done alongside laboratory services including giving opportunities to lab experts to start giving these services, to coordinate private labs and audit their buildings, equipment, reagents and to ensure that lab results are accurate so that patient diagnosis is correct," he said.

Dr Mwinyi said that other services that needed to go alongside health reforms were to ensure that ethics by lab service providers were upheld so as to avoid harm to the patient."These responsibilities are not minor and therefore you have no alternative but to read the regulations, guidelines and laws well, understand them so that you are able to work fully, with ability and care," he told the new board.

The minister urged that there was great need for the new board to be transparent and inform their clients about the fees which are a source of their income including application, registration, monitoring, quality assurance and evaluation fees.Dr Mwinyi said that he had received a number of complaints from service providers that there were delays in being registered as well as evaluation results of equipment and reagents, cautioning them to work on them.

"Together with all the challenges that face this board, allow me to advise the board to be careful on its decisions and ensure clients get timely services because delayed services is the same as denied services," he stressed.Speaking on behalf of the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, the Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Donan Mmbando, echoed the words of Dr Mwinyi on the importance of lab services.

He said the board needed to keep abreast with technological advancements whilst monitoring lab equipment entering the country.Dr Mmbando said that while the board was the authority that monitored which technology entered the country, it was important for them to broaden their scope such that they don't dismiss technology that could be useful to the country.

The PHLB Chairperson, Dr Margaret Mhando, said that the board had achieved a number of things like the registration of over 700 private health labs, companies and shops that sell equipment and reagents.Dr Mhando said that one of the biggest challenges that the board faced was finding ways of ensuring that all owners of private labs, shops and importers of lab equipment and reagents follow the right guidelines and regulations.

"Another stumbling block that we face is to increase the number of labs that are within health centres to meet the requirements needed as well as to have qualified employees," she said.Members of the new board were elected on July 7, 2012 and are expected to finish their term on July 6, 2015.

The members include Dr Margaret Mhando as Chairperson, Prof Fred Mhalu, Dr Charles Massambu, Ms Zubeda Salum, the head of lab services at MOHSW, Mr Bakari Chambuso, Mr Peter Kusuhibwa, Ms Juliana Munisi, Ms Zaynab Mfaume and Mr Joseph Nchimbi.

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