As I was walking into work on Monday I ran into Jane and Julius (the director of the clinical department and head of the lab) driving off site somewhere. They stopped and invited me to go with them to a meeting. I said sure, jumped in the vehicle, and off we went. At this point I had no idea what the meeting was or where we were going. This is part of being flexible while on my assignment. The meeting was about the East African Regional External Quality Assessment Scheme (EA-REQAS). All the new acronyms are fun to keep up with – especially when they say them like a word. Julius said the meeting was for REQAS and I was confused. I thought he was saying request or something. Then he started to explain and as soon as he said Regional External I knew what he meant. The summary sheet I had did not come with pronunciations.
Labs participating in REQAS are sent known samples to analyse about twice a year to confirm that their testing procedures are giving the correct answers. They also have some questions about what the next steps would be for the clinicians and how it impacts public health. Each lab receives feedback on how they did and a composite report is sent to each country’s ministry of health. AMREF is the coordinating centre for the regional project and has been running a lot of the project on the national level since it started ~10 years ago. Currently about 380 labs in 4 countries are participating.
Now they are trying to transition the national parts of the program to the ministries of health in each country as agreed on when the program began. This meeting was to discuss how this would be done within Kenya. It included representatives from the ministry, people who have been involved with developing and running the program and a couple people from one of the participating labs. It was good hearing from the participating lab about how the program was really working for them. There is often a disconnect between the plans made in conference rooms and how things actually work in the field. So it’s important to talk with the people in field to see how the projects actually work and what their needs are.
The meeting covered the history, progress, and current state of the program so it was very educational for me. At the end we had a long discussion about future steps and how to transition the program to the ministry as originally intended. It was interesting to listen to the different opinions and also gave a view of how politics are a large part of implementing programs (even programs that are 10 years old). One thing I found interesting was a discussion on what was the ministry’s responsibilities vs. what AMREF (and other NGOs) should be responsible for. Overall the meeting was successful and another meeting was planned to follow-up on actions and to further discuss where REQAS would fit within the ministry.