February 27, 2017

Laboratory and Blood Bank

Having our own Laboratory and Blood Bank enables us to more efficiently and cost effectively test for all kinds of conditions, and we are able to provide essential blood transfusions quickly, and as needed.

History and services
Since its inception in 1989, malaria has been the most common illness presented at MTC; thus it made sense for the clinic to have laboratory facilities with the ability to perform malaria screening, rather than relying on an external laboratory.  Laboratory work first began at MTC in 1992, with a staff of approximately four tucked away in a small corner with 2 microscopes, and a freezer.  The staff performed malaria screening, haemoglobin testing for anaemia, and blood typing.

Since 2004, malaria and haemoglobin screening has been provided to all pregnant women and children under 12 years old suffering from malnutrition. HIV screening started in 2001 as part of the antenatal health services provided at MTC, in collaboration with MSH, to support the prevention of mother to child transmission program (PMTCT). Two years later, the voluntary counselling and testing unit (VCT) was introduced. By 2008, the clinic had created a PMTCT program for quicker results and further counselling of patients.

Our laboratory testing and screening services include:  HIV antibody, Hepatitis B surface antigen, Hepatitis C antibody, urine stick, syphilis (VDRL), and STI testing. Mae Sot Hospital performs other tests not available, such as complete blood counts, metabolic tests, and renal function tests. The labratory staff coordinates the transfer of lab specimens to Mae Sot Hospital and the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit for testing and quality control.

The laboratory has a staff of 29, and malaria microscope slides constitute the bulk of the laboratory’s work. On average, around 160 samples per day re processed each day. Approximately 120 of these will be testing for malaria, with the remainder being primarily the screening of pregnant women and blood donors.

Blood donation Program

In 1995, the clinic began blood donor screening on a case-by-case basis, but there was no storage facility for donations.  In 1996, there were 36 transfusions, still using case-by-case screening, using mainly clinic staff as the donors.  If there were no donors available, blood was purchased from MSH.  In 1997 MTC began collecting blood from factory workers in order to keep sufficient inventory and stored it in Mae Sot Hospital.

This wasn’t a sustainable or cost-effective approach, so in 2000, MTC with the support of Mae Sot Hospital, set up a blood donation centre and blood bank for the blood transfusions performed at the clinic.  Since then, MTC has performed blood transfusions, as they have been necessary for the large numbers of patients arriving at the clinic with anaemia due to malaria, tuberculosis, nutritional deficiency, chronic disease or blood loss due to complications of childbirth or surgery.

The Blood Donation Centre service at MTC now encompasses the collection, screening, storage and administration of over 1,000 units of blood each year.  All donors are unpaid volunteers, with the safety of the blood supply ensured through the universal screening (by Mae Sot Hospital) of donated blood for hepatitis B and C, HIV, syphilis and malaria.  Most often donors are factory workers that come as a group to donate. This poses a challenge, as factory workers have very limited free time, with the entire process of risk assessment and donation of up to 100 people having to be completed in a few hours.  This is also seen simultaneously as a valuable opportunity to provide donors with health education about transmissible diseases, in particular, HIV and hepatitis.

The blood donation program activities include: ensuring a safe supply, collection, screening, storage, counselling, and training in safe collection and transfusion. To ensure a safe and adequate blood supply, all blood donors are screened for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis, and malaria. Donors are given a health risk assessment and health education on HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis. Those donors wishing to know their HIV status are referred to the VCT program.