A Clinic in Uganda Receives a Remodeled Laboratory
Ruhoko Health Center IV is a government facility in Ibanda district that serves about 150,000 people in Ibanda South. Up until now, the facility has been sending samples for CD4 counts or T-cells to neighboring districts. However, with support from the PEPFAR/USAID-funded Strengthening TB and HIV/AIDS Response in the South-Western region of Uganda (STAR-SW) project, the laboratory has been renovated and remodeled to serve as a hub for Ibanda district.
The health center has acquired state-of-the-art equipment worth over 200 million Uganda shillings [about $74,074]. The machines include a CD4 machine, hematology analyzer, and a clinical chemistry machine with all the accessories to enable the smooth operation of the hub.
“We are extremely happy to receive all this equipment and a new lab!” exclaimed an excited Jacinta Mugabe, an HIV-positive client at Ruhoko Health Center IV. She expressed her appreciation in a speech during the opening of the laboratory at the health center on September 25. Jacinta, who is also the chairperson of the network for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV), has been living with HIV for the last 15 years. She described how hard things were initially, since she had to travel long distances to neighboring districts in order to have her CD4 count taken and wait over a month to receive the results. “But now, with a new CD4 machine here at Ruhoko, it only takes us a few hours to receive our results,” said a joyful Jacinta amidst wild cheers from fellow members of the PLHIV network.
In attendance at the lab opening were various dignitaries, including USAID Deputy Mission Director John Mark Winfield. The district was well represented by the Local Council V chairman; Resident District Commissioner; Chief Administrative Officer; and Mayor. Also in attendance were representatives from the Ministry of Health, health workers, clients and beneficiaries, and members from the community.
“USAID is handing this over to you, the people,” said Winfield. “It is important that you utilize this great facility and hold us and your district officials accountable to keep this facility working and doing what it is supposed to do, because we are all here for one ultimate purpose: to ensure that there is good service provision to you, the people.”
The hub now has the capacity to process 70 - 100 CD4 samples per day, 20 samples for hematology per hour, and 15-20 chemistry samples per hour. Reagents (substances used to create a chemical reaction in HIV tests) to run the machines are available in the national system, which will further cut costs for purchasing lab materials. Furthermore, the facility was also equipped with a motorbike to transport the samples from other facilities to the hub and to return results quickly.
The hub is expected to serve as the referral point for all chemistry and hematology tests from lower health facilities within the district, and for all CD4 samples that are not handled at the sites with PIMA point-of-care machines. With two trained laboratory technicians and one laboratory assistant to manage the day-to-day activities, the hub is expected to support all 10 prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) implementing sites in the district, including one hospital, and three Health Center III facilities in the neighboring districts.
Ibanda district officials thanked the American and Ugandan governments for all the support rendered towards the district, and promised to put the lab to good use.
Nkiinzi Sanyu is a former Communications and Outreach Officer for the Foundation, based in Kampala, Uganda