KCCA Moves to Take Over National TB Labaratory

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Kampala Capital City Authority could take over the management of the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory in Wandegeya, Kampala.

The National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory, which has for decades been the reference laboratory for TB and leprosy, is being shifted to newly constructed multi-million dollar premises located opposite Butabika Mental Hospital.

The laboratory acquired a Supranational Reference Laboratory (SRL) status meaning it is now a reference laboratory for Rwanda, Eritrea, Lesotho, Tanzania, Zambia, South Sudan, Swaziland, Somalia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Liberia and Uganda.

The laboratory was awarded SRL status by the World Health Organisation in April 2013 making it the second such facility in the sub Saharan Africa.

Now as the staff relocate to the Butabika complex, there is dilemma on whether the Ministry of Health should close the building and dispose the equally functioning equipment.

Kenneth Musisi, a Laboratory Manager at the National TB Reference Laboratory (NTRL) recently confirmed that the negotiations were ongoing.

Kenneth Musisi says priority could also be extended to management of TB in children whom he says have been missing services like the one offered at Wandegeya.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that at least one culture laboratory should cover a population which ranges between five hundred thousand and one million.

The guidelines also provide that a drug susceptibility laboratory for TB in middle and low income countries like Uganda should be able to cover the same range of population.  The two tests are crucial for rapid drug susceptibility in TB.

Uganda with a population of 37 million people requires ten facilities similar to the Wandegeya laboratory, according to a KCCA official who asked for anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the subject.

The capital city and neighbouring municipalities and districts according to the 2014 Population and Hosing census could be in the range of nine million people. The entire region falls way back in terms of the WHO guidelines since it does not have a regional TB laboratory.
Dr. Jackson Amone, the Commissioner Clinical Services at Ministry of Health, recently tasked KCCA and the National TB Reference Laboratory (NTRL) management to write to the top management at the ministry for consideration.

A recent study by USAID funded SUSTAIN project found that more than half of the population of Kampala live in slum areas where the most accessible health care is provided by private clinics.

The Study said although many people turn to clinics first, the TB services offered by the clinics are very poor.

Therefore, improving TB services at these clinics presented an opportunity to increase TB case detection, reduce transmission, prevent the development of drug-resistant TB and ultimately reduce TB-related deaths.

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