Background An effective laboratory system is an essential component of a public health system caring for patients with communicable and non-communicable diseases. Unfortunately, in developing countries this system is often sub-optimal, which negatively impacts health care. This paper describes the current situation of the clinical laboratory sector in Haiti and highlights challenges that exist in Haiti and other developing countries as they try to establish a clinical laboratory system.
Method A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 30 laboratories across Haiti from January 19 to February 4, 2016. The laboratories surveyed were public or mixed public-private sector facilities belonging to different levels of the healthcare hierarchy. Labs were visited and directors of the health care institutions, lab managers, and members of their teams were interviewed and National Public Health Laboratory documents and information about the legal framework of the laboratory system was reviewed.
Results The National Laboratory of Public Health is the reference lab for the national lab network and plays a key role in epidemiologic surveillance. Investigators felt that that the general conditions in the nation’s labs (83%) are good, but numerous deficiencies are identified. Electricity is often limited and 86% of facilities have mixed energy system. Bacterial cultures and susceptibilities are not performed. Most of the lab technologists (88.2%) have received only 2 two-year training certificates, while only the remainder (11.8%) had completed three-year programs training. Few continuing education opportunities are available. Equipment repair is available in more facilities (83%) than routine maintenance (63%) and is complicated by the diversity of brands employed. A total of 93% of the labs participate in the quality control program run by the National Lab.
Conclusion The establishment of an effective national laboratory system requires coordination and input from many areas, including regulation of the sector, training of the technicians, sound infrastructure (including a stable supply of electricity) and dependable communications. Achieving this in developing countries will only be possible if different actors, national and international, coordinate their efforts.