Malawi labs eye double ISO rating by 2024

Malawi Government has embarked on ambitious plan to get all the 10 existing HIV testing molecular laboratories accredited with the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) at the rate of two per year by 2024.

The Minister of Health and Population, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, said the government has already started working with Southern Africa Development Community Accreditation Services (SADCAS) to achieve this goal.

Dr. Kadewere making his presentation before the awarding of accreditation certification to successful laboratories–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

Chiponda made the sentiments in Lilongwe on Wednesday during the Malawi Medical Laboratories ISO 15189:2012 SADCAS Accreditation Award Ceremony.

SADCAS is a regional accrediting body and runs a scheme to improve quality of services in various sectors that include health and laboratory in particular.

Chiponda disclosed that while charged with leading the fight against Covid-19 pandemic, her ministry is concurrently working in collaboration with partners to strengthen quality management systems.

“With SADCAS and in collaboration with our implementing partners, it is my ministry’s goal to have all the 10 existing HIV testing molecular laboratories accredited at the rate of two per year by 2024. Though the plan appears ambitious, but together with our partners, we have worked so hard that today we are boasting of surpassing the performance target and have achieved accreditation of at least four laboratories in a year,” she said.

She added that inherent in the plan is the necessity to provide the best care for the citizens of Malawi and this can only be possible through partnerships that currently involve the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) with support from the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The minister said one of the manifestations of these efforts is the news that a number of the medical laboratories in Malawi got accredited for meeting the quality management systems under ISO 15189.

Officials from Balaka and Blantyre DREAM Program pose for a photo with their accreditation certificates–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

Chiponda said accreditations is important as it ensures that laboratories are meeting defined quality performance standards covering all aspects of laboratory management, which include continual improvements infrastructure and testing environment, sample collection, testing and results analysis and internal and external controls, among others.

She said currently, Malawi now has six accredited medical laboratories, which include National HIV Reference Laboratory, Partners in Hope, Balaka DREAM, Blantyre DREAM, Mwaiwathu and Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust.

Chiponda stated that the fact that these have managed to attain the accreditation status implies that the managers of the other laboratories have a goal to achieve and must be inspired to learn, organise and improve for the accreditation.

“I am very sure that in a year’s time we will come here with a longer list of awardees than today because others have proved its doable,” she said.

In his presentation earlier, the Director of Health Technical Services, Dr. Godfrey Kadewere, said the accreditation means the laboratories can now operate internationally.

Kadewere assured that the labs are now trusted to give out accurate and reliable results regarding HIV and Covid-19, among other things.

In his remarks delivered virtually, US Ambassador to Malawi, Robert Scott, said the accreditation of the labs comes at the right time when the country is overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases.

Scott said the accredited labs are a step ahead in terms of diagnosis and surveillance in the country.

He assured that his government remains committed to helping Malawi to achieve its goals in the health sector.

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