April will be memorable for Rwanda’s National Reference Laboratory (NRL), despite the overwhelming work of testing for COVID-19 samples, the International Standards Organization accreditation (ISO115189) finally came home on 04 April, 2020 after years of hard work towards achieving the high level recognition.
The procedure of accreditation involves an independent assessment of the medical laboratory that includes an examination of personnel qualifications and competence, equipment, reagents and supplies. Also quality assurance is among the factors that are examined. To hatch a plan to achieve all the needed qualifications, NRL a division operating under Rwanda Biomedical Center launched the laboratory accreditation process during an international conference in 2009. Then Rwanda adopted the WHO AFRO Strengthening Laboratory Management towards Accreditation (SLMTA) program, a process that prepares laboratories for higher accreditation through ranking them from 0-5 stars.
“In the SLMTA program, labs are given projects that included staff capacity building, improving the turn-over time from when samples are brought in for testing to when the results are given to clients and an evaluation would be done every after 3 months to assess the improvement,” says Eng Jean Pierre Munana, Acting Director for Quality Assurance and Control Unit at the National Reference Laboratory under RBC.
In January 2010 when Rwanda embarked on the journey to achieve the 5 stars, they made a choice that changed the NRL for good. The achievements include; reducing the turn over time for different laboratory tests, forming a computerized information management system hence ensuring client satisfaction and accuracy since their samples are not misplaced or lost, improving staff capacity hence increasing the laboratory capacity, improving sample safety by improved storing measures under the commended temperature, among others. By 2017, RNL had achieved the 5 star SLMTA ranking and was eligible to applying for the ISO115189 accreditation.
To-date the new accreditation means, international recognition for Rwanda, it ensures that needs of laboratory clients are met. It’s a benchmark for performance and gives marketing advantage. As RNL aims to keep the high standard, client satisfaction and paying attention to detail about doing accurate timely tests is their way forward. The tests RNL does include quality control and diagnostic tests , currently the COVID_19 tests are keeping RNL busy and the good news is that the NRL acquired automated testing machines to boost its COVID-19 testing capacity and thanks to the improvements, all the results are accurate.