According to the Laboratory Manager of the Joseph N. France General Hospital’s, Mrs. Jasmine Hanley, “Eighty percent of medical decisions are made dependent on laboratory tests. So laboratories cover the whole scope of medical testing from diabetes to HIV and anything that may come up such as new viruses like H1N1. We also do preliminary testing for public health diseases such as dengue, before sending off the samples to the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) for confirmation.”
“Another key role of the Hospital Lab is the preparation of blood for victims of accidents and gun- shot wounds,” the Laboratory Manager outlined. “Blood cannot be transfused unless ‘typed’ or cross matched.”
It was explained that this involves not just the matching of the blood group but also running tests on the patient’s and donor’s samples to ensure that the various antibodies in the blood are compatible.
According to the health official, the commemoration of National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week originated in 1975 as National Medical Laboratory Week, under the auspices of the American Society for Medical Technology, now called the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS). According to the ASCLS Website, since the development of this career group in the 1920s, the clinical laboratory science professional has played an increasingly vital role in the diagnosis and prevention of disease.
Mrs. Hanley further explained that Medical Laboratory Technology or Clinical Laboratory Science, as it is referred to in some circles, is a very technical investigative science. She said the specialties consist of hematology, clinical chemistry, blood banking, microbiology, cytology, histology and phlebotomy.
Though often overlooked, said Mrs. Hanley, Medical Laboratory Professionals around the world play a key role in the day to day functioning of the health care system and this will be highlighted next week during the observance of the profession.
A special committee including other hospital lab personnel is coordinating the Week of Activities which will commence on Sunday, 24th April when the Minister of Health, Ms. Marcella Liburd, will declare the Week open in a broadcast message.
On Easter Monday, 25th April there will be a Catamaran Cruise, while Tuesday 26th will see the preparation and distribution of a phlebotomy brochure – phlebotomy being the collection of specimens for testing.
The Week continues on Wednesday, April 27 with a lecture on “Trends in Cervical Cytology” at Continuing Medical Education at the Joseph N. France General Hospital. Thursday there are presentations on Cervical Cancer Prevention as well as a visit to the Charles E. Mills Secondary School. Activities climax with a Laboratory Fair in Independence Square on Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Highlights include free blood group identification testing, free PSA testing for men – which is the blood test to identify the antigen for prostate cancer. Men over 40 years of age should bring a requisition form from either their health care provider or a health centre in order to be tested.