Assessment of health laboratories in handling epidemics of public health importance in Kampala District
Kabasa, William M.
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Background: Scanty information is available on the extent to which health laboratories in Uganda are involved in managing disease epidemics. According to Central Public Health laboratories report, laboratories in health facilities, including health centers in urban areas with high population densities have a special role in reducing risks, containing emergencies and responding to outbreaks. Moreover health facilities that are affected or exposed to risks, emergencies or outbreaks and are unprepared may pose additional or more serious risks to the communities they serve. This study assessed the level of preparedness of health laboratories in handling epidemics of public health importance in Kampala District. Method: A standardized, semi-structured questionnaire was used to collect information from (30) private health facilities and eight (8) public health center threes (HC3s) making a total of thirty eight (38) laboratories. The collected data was coded and analysed using a Stastical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS). Results: Seven core capacities were analysed where on staffing, laboratory based staff such as microbiologists, laboratory technologists, laboratory technicians and microscopists were 10.0%, 10.4%, 11.1%, and 10.4% , while staffs who got training for any specific disease outbreak of concern were highest in public health labs at 60% and lowest in private labs at 45.2% and those who never trained were highest in private at 52.4% and lowest in public labs at 30%.; Parasitology and serology scored highest at 74.1 %, in the tests performed while mycology scored the lowest at 1.9 %. Biosafety level 2 (BSL2) was more commonly used at 50% while BSL 3 was least used at 9.3%, moreover 25.9 % of respondents implemented Biosafety measures. Handling of disease outbreaks was more in private laboratories at 27.5% and lowest in public labs at 20%. As regards to equipment servicing, 60 % was found to be in public labs while private labs had 58.1%. Results referrals, with reference labs, was lowest in private labs at 83.7% while highest in public labs at 90%. Conclusion: This study suggests that laboratory requirements for management of disease outbreaks were the same for both private and public health units. The status of health laboratories in general laboratory safety management and good laboratory practices were inadequate. EQA practices in the study showed that results for laboratory disease diagnosis in the surveyed health units were accurate and reliable.