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“We Need Your Samples” – Fiji National Public Health Laboratory Seek Pacific Support in Provision of Samples

NADI, 28 September 2010 – Pacific Island health practitioners at the 6th Pacific Immunisation Programme Strengthening (PIPS) Workshop were asked to consider the Fiji National Public Health Laboratory which received World Health Organisation (WHO) accreditation early this year, for testing of acute fever and rash samples.
Dr Eric Rafai, Head of the National Public Health Laboratory and National Adviser Communicable Diseases said “Fiji needs samples from Pacific Island Countries to sustain its accreditation status.”
Currently Pacific Island Countries (PICs) send their samples to non-WHO accredited laboratories which cost more, may not have quality assurance and only provide results without further information on the samples being tested.
The National Public Health Laboratory “provides a quick turn-around time with results i.e within 7 days, has the capacity to offer technical assistance, and gives not only results but quality assurance and more information regarding the samples being tested,” said Dr Rafai.
Rita Oliva, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Coordinator with the Guam Immunisation Programme said “Guam already has a Public Health Laboratory that is accredited but there are some issues which has hindered it from being operational.”
“The issues are unclear but it could be related to lack of supplies and other equipment which has stopped it from being up and running,” adding that “we would like the use of the laboratory for the Northern Pacific since it’s quite a distance to send to Fiji.”
Unlike Guam, Kiribati sends their samples to Australia. Tikua Tekitanga, Coordinator of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in Kiribati expressed interest in sending samples to Fiji instead of Australia.
Ms Tekitanga said “knowing that Fiji has a laboratory that is able to provide a range of services and information, will be considered and discussed with the Director of Public Health who will attend this meeting tomorrow.”
Dr Rafai’s presentation begs the question of why the issue of samples is important for Fiji. Put simply, for instance each batch at the Fiji NPH laboratory has about 40 tests and with 5 samples received per month there is a non-usage of about 35 tests.
“Although measles kits are procured by the World Health Organisation (WHO) they are quite expensive. The required turn-around time (within 7 days) for test results does not allow us to wait for samples to test in a batch therefore adding samples from other PICs reduces this wastage,” said Dr Rafai.
The PIPS workshop which runs from September 27th – October 1st in Nadi is being hosted by the Government of Fiji. The workshop is organised by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO), United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Government of Japan, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID).
For more information please contact Donna Hoerder, UNICEF Communications Specialist – External Relations, or 679 9265 518



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