Lessons Learned from SLMTA Accredited Labs

Cimas Harare Medical Laboratory, Zimbabwe

SADCAS Accreditation Certificate Handover Ceremony

From left: Dr. Mafingei Nyamwanza (Managing Director, Cimas Medical Services Division), Maureen Mutasa (CEO SADCAS), Dr David Parirenyatwa (Minister of Health and Child Care), Douglas Mangwanya (Chairman of Laboratory Services in SADC)

Internal Audit Team

From left: Naison Machaka, Lydia Madovi, Erica Chidziva (Lead Internal Auditor), Roselin Magaramombe (Laboratory Manager), Sandra Mavuto (Quality Coordinator), Sandra Mamvura and Josphat Chinyama.

  1. What was the hardest thing to do in order to get accredited?
    • To get buy-in from staff and foster teamwork in the various departments.
    • To get staff to start documenting everything, because it was perceived as extra work in view of the already existing tasks.
    • To get staff to write SOPs in a standardized format, read the policies and procedures, and to follow the written procedures.

  2. What was the easiest?
    • To get buy-in from Management on the financial requirements.
    • To train enthusiastic internal auditors.

  3. What was the most important contributing factor to getting accredited?
    • Having the lab manager enroll and participate in the SLMTA program.
    • Having the Managing Director champion the cause.
    • Training all staff in QMS and ensuring that they embrace quality as a way of life.
    • Getting a SLMTA mentor to walk the walk with us.

  4. What steps did you take ?
    • Step 1 : Enrolling and participating in the SLMTA program.
    • Step 2 : Identifying staff’s talents and empowering them to use those talents.
    • Step 3 : Involving a mentor all the way.
    • Step 4 : Training staff in all aspects of QMS.
    • Step 5 : Internal auditing and having a quality team to assess and review all processes.

  5. What were the biggest mistakes you made?
    • Not budgeting for accreditation initially (i.e., the costs involving improvement projects to comply with all the requirements).
    • Assuming that because we had highly qualified and experienced scientists, the road towards accreditation would be smooth going.
    • Inadequate knowledge of the application process and time lines.

  6. What is the best advice you can give to others?
    • Ensure top management is heavily involved and committed.
    • Never give up even when the going is tough.
    • Involve everyone and communicate with staff all the way; give praise where it is due and acknowledge good work by giving certificates etc.
    • Involve the finance people and make them part of the process since they control the finances.
    • Accreditation is a journey with no destination – no system is perfect but there is room for continuous improvement as the identified gaps are closed.