Fifteen Million Rand Mobile Laboratory for Mass Diseases Arrives from Germany
The fifteen (R15m) million rand mobile laboratory donated for HIV Counselling and Testing arrived from Germany in the Cape Town harbour this week. After clearing customs, the unit was transported to its new home at Tygerberg Hospital.
Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT), located in Saarland Germany, the advanced state of the art mobile diagnostic laboratory allows testing of mass diseases like HIV/Aids, TB and Malaria. It contains a fully equipped biomedical laboratory including bio-safety level three (3) facilities, sample storage facilities, an on-board autoclave, own power supply, satellite-linked communications and a range of other facilities.
The unit has undergone trial runs as a laboratory in Germany and is now approved according to all relevant German and European standards. It will be able to evaluate a patient's eligibility for antiretroviral therapy (ART) and perform relevant baseline tests on the same day as it is diagnosing a patient's HIV infection status. This means that medical personnel will be able to refer these patients to existing ART sites of the Department of Health in a much quicker and more effective manner thereby fast-tracking the initiation of life changing services.
Theuns Botha, Western Cape Minister of Health, travelled to Saarland in July this year to sign the agreement on behalf of the Western Cape government. In terms of the agreement, the Fraunhofer Institute will provide all necessary technical support through German organisations and experts during the one year trial period in the Western Cape. The provincial Department of Health is responsible for identifying priority geographic areas and target populations that could benefit from the use of the laboratory, undertaking joint planning and project reviews in collaboration with the Institute and other partners and the provision of maintenance support, supplies and counselling and testing services.
Simultaneously, and within the framework of the existing collaboration between the division of Medical Virology, the Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, the National Health Laboratory Service of South Africa and the Fraunhofer-Institute, the mobile laboratory equipment will be tested during a one year trial period in the Western Cape under prevailing conditions with a view to adapt it for use in more remote areas of South Africa.
The state-of-the-art mobile laboratory will be able to screen forty (40) clients per day, totalling eight thousand (8000) screening tests per year.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering is a global leader in medical biobanking and diagnostic technologies and has a close working relationship with the University of Stellenbosch in the fields of cryotechnology and bio-research.
Botha said, "The arrival of this mobile laboratory is a literal delivery worthy of special celebration. Not only will this unit accelerate our provincial HIV Counselling and Testing campaign, it means we are now able to take the clinic and the laboratory to the communities we serve. This is in line with our promise to make healthcare accessible, in particular to rural communities, and to improve the patient experience."
"The Western Cape provincial government wishes to express its sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Institute and the German Government for their generosity and acknowledgement of our initiative to improve access to HIV Counselling and Testing and antiretroviral eligibility in the Western Cape," said Botha.
For more information on the Fraunhofer Institute, visit www.ibmt.fraunhofer.de
Western Cape Minister for Health