Laboratory Superintendent at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital, Catherina Jemmott says Dominica has the advantage of being the only OECS country which has the capacity to test for COVID19 because of foresight and an understanding of current times.
“During preparations for the construction of the Dominica China Friendship Hospital, we proposed that a Molecular Unit be part of that facility and we got that,” she reported at a Min of Health press conference on March 19.
Jemmott explained further, “Molecular testing targets genetic material of pathogens so we are using molecular testing to identify the virus.”
In 2019, she said, through collaboration with PAHO, the lab was furnished with a PCR machine also known as a thermocycler, PCR machine or DNA amplifier. It is a laboratory apparatus most commonly used to amplify segments of DNA via the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
“It was not for COVID,” Jemmott explained, “We were getting ready for emerging diseases. We had the capacity early in 2019 to be able to test for dengue, chikungunya and zika. So when PAHO reached out to ask what capacity we had, we said the machine and labarotary technicians. We need reagents and training.”
Commenting of the accuracy of the results, the lab chief assured, “In the lab, quality assurance is a big thing for us… We have to stand by the quality of our results.
“Staff have been deemed competent, our analysers are calibrated. We run multiple commercial controls with every test run and there is ongoing real time collaboration with the PAHO virologist.”
Dr Lionel Gresh trained lab techs in Dominica in February.
He also trained others in Jamaica, Guyana, Bahamas, according to Jemmott.
The Ministry of Health hopes the public will rest assured in the competence of lab testing at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital.
Jemmott also informs that specimen collection kits have been distributed to all health centres and medical professionals are trained to safely and correctly collect specimen samples for lab testing.