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The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown: Quality of Clinical Laboratories in Kampala, Uganda
Published: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Author: Ali M. Elbireer et al.

by Ali M. Elbireer, J. Brooks Jackson, Hakim Sendagire, Alex Opio, Danstan Bagenda, Timothy K. Amukele

Background

Clinical laboratories are crucial in addressing the high rates of communicable and non-communicable diseases seen in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, the most basic information, such as the number and quality of clinical laboratories in SSA, is not available. The objective of this study was to create a practical method for obtaining this information in SSA towns and cities using an initial survey in Kampala, Uganda.

Methods

Kampala city was divided into 5 partially-overlapping regions. Each region was assigned to 2–3 surveyors who identified and surveyed laboratories in their respective regions; in person and on foot. A modified version of the World Health Organization - African Region (WHO/AFRO) Laboratory Strengthening Checklist was used to obtain baseline measures of quality for all clinical laboratories within Kampala city. The surveyors also measured other attributes of each laboratory, such as their affiliation (government, private etc), designation (national hospital, district hospital, standalone etc), staff numbers, and type of staff.

Results

The survey team identified and surveyed 954 laboratories in Kampala city. 96% of laboratories were private. Only 45 (5%) of the laboratories met or surpassed the lowest quality standards defined by the WHO/AFRO-derived laboratory strengthening tool (1-star). These 45 higher-quality laboratories were, on average, larger and had a higher number of laboratory-specific staff (technologists, phlebotomists etc) than the other 909 laboratories. 688 (72%) of the 954 laboratories were not registered with the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Conclusions

This comprehensive evaluation of the number, scope, and quality of clinical laboratories in Kampala is the first published survey of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. The survey findings demonstrated that laboratories in Kampala that had qualified personnel and those that had higher testing volumes, tended to be of higher-quality.

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