2nd LabNet Technical Working Body Meeting

The 2nd LabNet Technical Working Body (TWB) Meeting took place at SPC headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia, on 1 June 2004. This meeting preceded the PPHSN-CB meeting, held the following day.

This time, TWB representatives from the Pasteur Institute of New Caledonia (IPNC), WHO and SPC were joined by laboratory professionals from two other Pacific Island countries: Dr Joe Koroivueta from Fiji Islands and Mr Andrew Darcy from Solomon Islands.

As at the first TWB meeting, the TWB members discussed a number of issues, and prepared a summary of their discussions for the CB meeting the following day.

The main points of the discussions are presented below.

PIHOA initiatives in the North Pacific:
TWB members reviewed the strengthening of LabNet in the North Pacific, carried out by the Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA) with the support of US Bioterrorism funds. The work that has been done includes:

  • Assessment of Majuro, Pohnpei and Saipan laboratories (L1)
  • Assessment of Guam Public Health Laboratory (L2)
  • Revolving fund established with contributions by all six jurisdictions
  • Memorandum of Understanding and Participatory Agreement prepared and ready to be signed
  • Position of Regional Laboratory Coordinator created
  • Regional Laboratory Board established

Laboratory assessments:
As well as the North Pacific laboratory assessments noted above, TWB members received assessments of other laboratories:

  • Carried out under the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria project: assessments and formulation of development plans of L1 laboratories in Samoa, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Palau by Pacific Paramedical Training Centre, New Zealand (PPTC); assessments of Pasteur Institute of New Caledonia (L2) and Mataika House in Fiji Islands (L2).

Links with Australian and New Zealand public health laboratory networks

Role of Pacific Paramedical Training Centre (PPTC):
Training of laboratory workers, support for Quality Management system development, etc.

Support from Asian Development Bank (ADB) RETA 6108:
The planned recruitment of a laboratory specialist to work at SPC for 5–6 months in collaboration with WHO and PPTC.

Reviews of LabNet laboratory level (L1, L2 and L3) diagnostic capacities in regard to PPSHN target diseases, carried out in 1999 and 2003

Review of available diagnostic tests for PPHSN target diseases

Other future or existing LabNet related projects:
Fiji School of Medicine’s Pacific Dengue Proposal; Letter of Intent (LOI) from Mataika House to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding capacity building for national influenza centres; establishment of a Regional Measles Laboratory Network supporting the Regional Measles Elimination Programme and modelled on the laboratory support for polio eradication.

PPHSN laboratory guidelines:
To be completed and published together with the rest of the PPHSN guidelines before the March 2005 Ministers and Directors of Health Meeting.

SOP, QA and QC:
Standard Operation Procedures (SOP), Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) to be developed individually by the laboratories, and general SOP and QC procedures to be prepared regionally, for the PPHSN target diseases.

Stockpiles and funding:
TWB members agreed that the planned revolving fund could be utilised for rapid procurement of diagnostic kits and a stockpile of consumables.

Specimen referrals:
TWB members recognised that this is a recurring problem and that a number of actions need to be taken in this area:

  • A letter to airlines, which was prepared and approved by the CB in 2002, is available for distribution from the CB focal point when needed.
  • L2 and L3 laboratories should each develop their own Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) Manual on specimen referrals (see above).
  • Shipping containers should be provided either by WHO/EPI or paid for by other donors through the revolving fund.
  • Training by regional laboratory specialists (ADB Laboratory Specialist based at SPC, PIHOA Regional Laboratory Coordinator in the North Pacific) should be organised.

LabNet “instructions for use”:
Clear instructions regarding specimen referrals to Reference Laboratories should be disseminated, and also included in the proposed PPHSN laboratory guidelines. It was also suggested that the instructions be included in a directory of PPHSN resources.

Training needs and opportunities:
The TWB members listed current and possible laboratory training opportunities: training opportunities already exist through the PPTC, the Fiji School of Medicine, the Palau Area Health Education Centre, the University of Samoa and the Pacific Open Learning Health Network; exchange schemes could be organised between L1 and L2, L1 and L3, and L2 and L3 laboratories.