Ministry, Partners, and CDC Funders Celebrate the Many Accomplishments of PEPFAR-supported National Laboratory Capacity Building Project

[gdlr_styled_box content_color=”#002f5d” background_color=”#bdc6e3″ corner_color=”#002f5d” ]AIHA Country Director for Tanzania, Mrs. Sally Chalamila (right), presents a commemorative plaque to Mr. Jaffer Suffi (left), Acting Director of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s National Health Laboratory and Quality Assurance Training Center, while Dr. Vamsi Vasireddy of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Tanzania, and Tina Huber, of Boulder Community Hospital, look on.[/gdlr_styled_box]

The American International Health Alliance (AIHA) celebrated the accomplishments of an eight-year-long laboratory quality improvement program successfully carried out by the Diagnostic Services Section of Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) with technical support from Boulder Community Hospital in Colorado.

The official graduation ceremony, which took place on Friday, March 13, 2015, at the Centre for Enhancement of Effective Malaria Interventions in Dar es Salaam, marked the full transition to local ownership and management of this major intervention aimed at improving the quality of HIV/AIDS diagnosis and treatment in Tanzania. It was attended by senior Ministry officials, representatives from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Tanzania, AIHA, the program partners, and other key stakeholders.

“Lives are being saved and AIDS patients better managed as a result of the laboratory mentorship program,” Mr. Jaffer Suffi, said during his keynote address at the gala event. The Acting Director of the National Health Laboratory and Quality Assurance Training Center went on to stress that the training, bench-side mentoring, and supportive supervision provided through the program have greatly strengthened the provision of diagnostic services throughout the country.

Highlighting some of the many successes of the partnership program, Mrs. Ester Shija, Laboratory Information Officer at the Diagnostic Services Section, cited the nationally approved mentorship training curriculum, the training and placement of 40 national lab mentors at 23 regional laboratories, professional development opportunities provided to more than 50 lab professionals nationwide, and scholarships to support the education of 50 laboratory students.

The program also played a crucial role in Dar es Salaam’s Temeke Hospital Laboratory earning a 3-Star rating on the World Health Organization (WHO) SLIPTA scale in July 2014 — up from a 0-star rating in two previous assessments.

This remarkable accomplishment was underscored in remarks from Mr. Dickson Majige, Head of MOHSW Laboratory Services, who stressed the importance of all of the country’s regional laboratories attaining international accreditation to ensure that the people of Tanzanian receive quality diagnostic services. Mr. Majige also lauded the twinning model, which he said allowed partners to learn from each other, noting that the technical support the Ministry received from Boulder Community Hospital was invaluable to the quality improvement reforms that the Tanzanian government is pursuing in the country’s labs.

Mrs. Sally Chalamila, AIHA’s Country Director for Tanzania, said the partnership concluded at a suitable moment. “Together, we developed a recipe that works and Tanzania is well placed to have the laboratory quality improvement program continue — and for our labs to be internationally accredited — because of the strong pool of qualified national mentors and other lab professionals we have produced. They will carry on this work into the future,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of the Boulder team, Laboratory Administrative Manager Tina Huber thanked both the Ministry and AIHA for the opportunity to leverage the knowledge and experiences from the internationally acclaimed Boulder Community Hospital through voluntary, peer-to-peer relationships.

Mindful of some systemic challenges that slow down the pace of achieving full international accreditation, twinning partners on both sides voiced their satisfaction with the many major improvements in quality that have occurred at the regional laboratories as a result of their joint efforts. Admitting that the journey ahead is still long, they were quick to point out that the lessons they learned together will help sustain their successes and progress even further in the coming months and years.
AIHA’s Tanzania laboratory quality improvement program was made possible thanks to support from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and CDC / Tanzania.