February 18, 2019 | Conakry (Guinea)
On January 31, 2019, the final LAB-NET steering committee was held, followed by the project’s closing ceremony, under the high authority of the Guinean Ministry of Health. Funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, LAB-NET was coordinated by Expertise France and run by the Mérieux Foundation and Institut Pasteur. The project’s participants gathered to review the 45 months of intervention, launched in 2015 as part of the post-Ebola reconstruction of the Guinean health system.
Strengthening Guinea’s laboratory surveillance and diagnostic capacities
The LAB-NET project had a twofold objective:
- Develop an action plan, alongside national authorities, after taking stock of laboratories and their needs;
- Strengthen laboratory capacities to provide quality diagnostic testing and set up a national surveillance system for epidemic diseases.
Many activities were implemented to achieve these objectives. First, six assessment missions were undertaken in regional and prefectural hospital laboratories, as well as in health center laboratories and laboratories servicing mining companies. More than a hundred laboratories were assessed. The data collected during these assessments, regularly enriched throughout the project, was used for mapping Guinean laboratory capacity. This information is now available on the open-source DHIS2 platform, which makes it possible to analyze and present the data. To date, LAB-NET is the only project that has enabled this kind of mapping of Guinean laboratories. Sharing this data has made it possible to identify several interventions to improve clinical laboratories, some of which have already received funding.
As part of the project, 24 training sessions were organized, in biosafety and sample referencing, transport of infectious substances, laboratory management, external quality assessment and training of trainers. In total, more than 450 people have received training, thus improving laboratory operations. In addition, the training module on the transport of infectious substances has been adapted into an e-learning course, available on the Mérieux Foundation’s Quality Initiative website.
LAB-NET also enabled ten laboratories, from the public, private and military sectors, to follow a one-year external quality assessment program.
40 laboratories and the national laboratory directorate were provided kits of personal protective equipment, sample boxes and everyday lab consumables. The assessment missions had revealed a lack of supplies that are essential for a laboratory to run properly.
Starting to rebuild Guinea’s health system
After 45 months of intervention, the LAB-NET project has made concrete progress in rebuilding Guinea’s post-Ebola health system by strengthening one of its most fragile aspects, clinical biology. The project provided an opportunity to establish an inventory of laboratories in Guinea, to outfit them with essential equipment, and to train a large number of laboratory personnel. This dynamic continues with new projects, including LABOGUI, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD), which aims to strengthen 30 laboratories in Guinea and rehabilitate the National School of Health.