Healthcare professionals receive training on the shipping of infectious substances

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The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre (SLBMC), have successfully held a training for laboratory professionals on the shipping of infectious substances.

The course was designed for SLBMC laboratory staff and other laboratory professionals in Antigua & Barbuda to strengthen capacity and identify health security risks efficiently.

Personnel attending the training also included staff from the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) who are also involved in biomedical material transport.

This training was also important for the laboratory staff to attain certification in accordance with International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Dangerous Goods Regulations.

Barbara Joseph, SLBMC’s Laboratory Service & Quality Manager noted the importance of the training not just for SLBMC but for the entire country; “These trainings will enhance Antigua & Barbuda’s capacity to ship biological samples to reference laboratories in other countries for further testing and characterization. As a result, we’re able to help speed up research and better serve patients.”

“The Ministry of Health will continue to work with partner agencies to ensure shipping of infectious substance trainings continue in accordance with evolving health issues globally so that the country’s laboratory services are strengthened,” commented Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kamaria DeCastro.

Carlos Rampersaud, CARPHA Biorisk Officer and facilitator of the recently held training, stressed the importance of safe shipping through strict regulations to ensure that shippers are trained to safely ship biological specimens.

“It is important for us to have infectious substances shipped according to the standards, especially given the Cricket World Cup as we have many persons visiting from over 25 countries to the region—And as such we must remain vigilant during this time to ensure if we have any outbreaks during our mass gatherings that we are prepared to ship during an emergency. The shipping of infectious substances and understanding of the relevant biosafety practices are of great importance as well as the training opportunities that will continue to be offered to Antigua post the Cricket World Cup. We hope that the knowledge gained from this training will be shared among staff.”

Training course participants expressed their gratitude for the training received. Coleen Gittens, SLBMC Medical Laboratory Technologist said, “We got a lot of practice packing. I now better understand why you pack the way you do and the role that different persons must play in the entire process. It’s not just about the lab, it’s about getting the material to where it needs to go safely, and we all have a role to play.”

Kenja James, Laboratory Technician at SLBMC expressed a similar sentiment, “This course was a real eye-opening experience for me because I understand a lot more of the biological safety aspect of the samples—And why what we do and how we do it is done—the real reason behind all of it.”

The training course syllabus included a mixture of both theoretical and practical elements. Initial face-to-face training and certification is followed by online training every two years to recertify and remain valid.

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