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 Australia provides new lab at Helena

Inside of the lab
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Munda Helena Goldie Hospital in the Western Province is setting up its first medical laboratory.

This is a prefabricated laboratory worth SBD2.9 million and is part of the “turnkey project”, funded by the Australian Government.  This forms part of Australia’s support to the Ministry of Health to implement recommendations from the assessment made by the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) mission to Solomon Islands, during the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year.

The name of the project “turnkey” indicates that once installed, it will immediately be ready to use.

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Turnkey comes fully supplied with associated equipment, reagents, furniture, and fittings, including: a new GeneXpert machine for COVID-19 testing; Haematology; a biochemistry analyser; autoclave machines; microscopes: centrifuges; an incubator; and blood bank freezers. This equipment is required for a lab to be able to perform blood tests and analysis to assist doctors with diagnosis and treatment.

In addition to the two 20-foot container labs, training will also be provided by the manufacturer so that local staff are comfortable with using the facility.

Dr. Kubota Kaniki, the Medical Officer in charge of the Helena Goldie Hospital, said that this is truly an important milestone for the hospital in its strive to provide quality healthcare service to the people and communities within its catchment area. “ This also includes workers of Soltuna and National Fisheries department including those using the  Noro international seaport and Munda International Airport let alone the tourists visiting the nearby resorts”,

“Once completed and functional, COVID-19 swabs and blood samples retrieved from patients will immediately be analysed in the lab without the need to send them to the National Referral Hospital in Honiara. This will enable our medical teams to provide timely diagnosis and treatment for our patients.  This will also save the costs of sending patients or their blood samples to Honiara”, highlighted Dr Kaniki.

He thanked the Government of Australia and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services ”for the joint collaboration and cooperation that has enabled this important development for our people within the catchment area of the hospital”.

In her statement, Ms Sally-Anne Vincent, Acting Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands explained this support is part of Australia’s commitment to the ongoing COVID-19 response in Solomon Islands and efforts to strengthen the health system in preparation for future disease outbreaks.

“Australia is pleased to be funding the laboratory and diagnostic capacity. Australia is also funding a similar set up at Taro and Lata hospitals in Choiseul and Temotu Provinces respectively, as per the recommendations from AUSMAT”, said Ms Vincent.

She highlighted that Australia has provided an annual grant to Helena Goldie Hospital through the Ministry of Health’s provincial grant allocations, equating to SBD4 million from 2012 to 2022.

“In 2023, we will provide SBD374, 244 to Helena Goldie Hospital”, confirmed Ms Vincent.

In response, Health Permanent Secretary Mrs Pauline McNeil thanked Australia for its continuous support in the health sector, bridging gaps, addressing urgent matters and overcoming shortfalls and challenges.

“The Ministry is grateful for such support, especially at this time when the focus is increasingly towards strengthening the health care system and improving health care services across the country”, said Mrs McNeil.

The lab has arrived at the Helena Goldie hospital and Australia has contracted Lauru Bay builders for the preparation of the site and installation of the labs.

The project is scheduled for completion by mid-January 2023.

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