Testing at National Influenza Centre to be Boosted by CHASE Funding of Equipment

15 Apr, 2020

The CHASE Fund is providing funding to acquire additional testing equipment and supplies for the National Influenza Centre (NIC) at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).


Jamaica’s NIC, located in the Department of Microbiology, UHWI, is Jamaica’s only Virus Laboratory with the capacity to diagnose and isolate highly infectious viruses. The equipment, valued at $35M, is expected to enhance the capability of the Centre enabling it to test more samples quickly and accurately.  


The NIC is part of a global network of national institutions designated by Ministries of Health and recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) which participate in the work of the WHO Global Influenza Programme.  The Centre now handles testing for the novel Coronavirus.


The NIC at UWI/UHWI submits results of testing to WHO on a weekly basis on the diagnosis of circulating and emerging influenza types and subtypes. Testing for Coronavirus has been established on that relationship with the WHO. Training of UWI staff to perform the newly developed test for the SARS CoV 2 virus was provided by WHO.


Dr. Alison Nicholson, Consultant Microbiologist and Chair of the Infection Control and Prevention Committee at the UHWI, indicated that the CHASE intervention would connect the technical expertise available in the Department, with the much-needed resources required to meet the challenges of this pandemic.


Medical Chief of Staff and Consultant Neurosurgeon at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Dr. Carl Bruce, noted that increased testing was key to determining accurate number of cases and will also help to determine the need for isolation of patients, where the patients are isolated and how the patients are managed.


“This will allow for the efficient utilization of the isolation and holding areas allowing for the rapid transfer of patients from the emergency division and Intensive Care negative pressure isolation rooms to the COVID-19 wards,” Dr. Bruce said.  “It will also allow for stable positive patients to be managed at convalescent facilities or at home under supervision,” he added


The CHASE Fund, which commits 20 per cent of available resources to the Health sector annually, has also been assisting with the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ public education for COVID-19.  “The Fund has been approached for funding by several public entities since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Billy Heaven, CEO of the CHASE Fund. “We have had extensive discussions with Ministry of Health and Wellness to align our assistance with the national objectives…the commitment to the NIC is in keeping with this general thrust”.