More private doctors cleared to test for COVID-19

THE Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) has reported an increase in applications for the Pre-Accreditation Approval Programme (PAAP) that allows unaccredited medical and testing laboratories and point-of-care testing (POCT) providers to be assessed and verified to conduct COVID-19 testing.

Sharonmae Shirley, CEO of JANAAC, told the Jamaica Observer that as at Friday, March 12, JANAAC had received a total of 37 PAAP applications and of that number, 26 were received from medical centres – including those that are owned or operated by medical doctors – three from pharmacies, two from hospitals and six from private laboratories.

Shirley added that as at March 12, 2021, 10 PAAP clients were at varying stages in closing out findings for their PAAP assessments.

In addition, the JANAAC CEO said the assessments for three PAAP clients will soon be submitted for review and decision by the Pre-Accreditation Approval Committee.

Further, she said three additional entities have been approved by JANAAC to conduct COVID-19 testing, bringing the total number of approved entities for COVID-19 testing, outside of the approved laboratories, to six.

The entities include Pulseline Family Medical Centre in Montego Bay, St James; Health Plus Associates in Pembroke Hall, St Andrew; Health Renew Medical Centre at South Avenue, St Andrew; Oneness Health Centre Limited in Montego Bay; plus Windsor Wellness Centre and Dunrobin Medical and Wellness Centre, both in St Andrew.

Last week the Sunday Observer reported that some of the labs approved for COVID-19 testing were subletting the tests to private doctors without any training or adherence to testing standards.

A source close to the Sunday Observer shared that the approved labs were operating like a cartel and marking up the tests by 150 to 200 per cent, then charging a separate fee to doctors to use their name as an affiliate.

Shirley at the time reinforced that permits are granted through the Standards and Regulations Division of the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) for the acquisition of COVID-19 test kits, adding that from a quality and safety perspective subletting or selling the COVID-19 test kits should not be allowed.

“Each entity should be assessed in its own right, based on the competence of the personnel and the suitability of the location for sample collection and testing,” Shirley said.

She added that if the sample is not being collected by private doctors in the manner required by the MoHW and the facility does not have the requisite biohazard management systems in place, then the collection and testing would be in breach of the Public Health Act.

While Shirley was unable to speak to sanctions that would apply to entities approved by the health ministry for COVID-19 testing, she said if the practice was occurring with PAAP customers their approval would be rescinded by JANAAC.

Shirley encouraged medical facilities to apply to the JANAAC PAAP and get their organisations formalised for COVID-19 testing to ensure consistency in the quality of test results used to determine patient care.

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