The COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to many new medical laboratories in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), which remain unmonitored.
This concern was raised by Minister of Health and the Environment, St Clair Prince as he opened debate on the Medical Laboratories Bill 2022 in Parliament on Tuesday, October 25.
The minister said these labs which “popped up during COVID” was a response to a demand for testing.
“There was a demand, and they just jumped right in to fill that demand.”
Prince further stated that if medical labs continue to remain “unregulated and unmonitored,” people “will never be sure about their results.”
He cautioned that “a lab result is only as accurate as the quality of lab system that provides it.”
Minister Prince also stressed the need to ensure that medical labs “meet international standards.”
The many labs that popped up over the last two years have put a strain on the capacity of the Ministry of Health to monitor them.
And Prince said that his ministry “found it a challenge to curtail these activities by individuals and entities.”
He stressed that these activities threatened to derail the credibility of testing protocols.
As a result of this threat, Minister Prince said urgent action was needed to “regulate these services nationally.”
As he led the debate, Minister Price said the Bill seeks to provide for the establishment of a Medical Laboratories Council.
This Council will provide monitoring, licencing and inspection of the operations of Medical Laboratories in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Prince said that the Bill “is as significant as it is timely,” and comes at a critical period in the delivery of health services in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
“It is a time when we are doubling down on reformation and revolution of the health sector.
“We are indeed expanding and modernizing the health sector,” Minister Prince said.
Stressing the importance of medical labs, the minister pointed out that accurate and reliable lab diagnosis is the foundation of this country’s “disease prevention and management thrust.”
He added that these labs “are very critical in the wider scheme of things.”
Prince noted that 70-80% of the information used to make “critical decisions in the medical field” have been provided by labs.
While the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for labs to be regulated and monitored, they also played a vital role during the pandemic.
Under this new piece of legislation, owners and operators of medical labs can have their licenses revoked for failure to meet the set requirements and standards which govern both private and public medical labs.
When established, the Medical Laboratories Council will be responsible for the licencing and inspection of labs, and also for their certification and accreditation.
The Minister of Health added that the Bill “is potentially a game changer,” as his ministry seeks to deliver quality health care to the people of SVG.
Giving support to the Bill, West Kingstown Member of Parliament, Daniel Cummings said it comes “at a time when health systems around the world, are challenged.
Locally, the private sector has moved in to fill the gaps, he said.
“We on this side of the House have absolutely no quarrel, in principle, with the regulation of private laboratories.
“It is a necessary step,” the Opposition MP stated.
Cummings however expressed concern that there is “nothing in the Bill that controls the quality of staff that an institution may have.”
He sees this as a precautionary measure to avoid “contamination of samples” which could result in patients receiving inaccurate results.
Cummings added that inaccurate results could also hold serious implications for the patient.
And he underscored the importance of training and monitoring of the staff of these laboratories.
The Medical Laboratories Bill received support from both sides of the House of Assembly and was passed after debate.