There is a significant upgrade in technology at the Central Laboratory in Belize City. The lab has acquired new equipment that will increase capacity and time for blood screening. Tonight in Healthy Living, we visit the lab to find out more about the newly acquired machine, and its benefits.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

This room of vials and medical equipment is not one that patients are aware of as a part of their medical care, but the function of the Central Medical Laboratory is one of the most crucial steps in healthcare. Tasked with the responsibility of screening blood samples for infectious diseases is an everyday task for the technicians.

Dr. Gerhaldine Morazan, Director, Medical Lab Services, MoH

"The central medical laboratory is a service to all the country as a referral laboratory. So it does the vigilance or surveillance part also the clinical part for the central region and also works as referral lab for the district laboratories."

Doctor Gherhaldine Morazan is the Director of the Ministry of Health's Medical Laboratory Services. One of the labs principal functions is to screen all the samples that are donated to the blood bank. It’s a vital service ensuring that all blood is safe for use during transfusions. The Central Medical Lab has recently acquired new technology that will improve the service that they provide. These machines - the Cobas Machine – are a significant upgrade from the prior system of blood screening.

Marleni Cuellar

"Three weeks ago there was an issue concerning shortage of blood due to the screening. Can you explain what took place?"

Dr. Gerhaldine Morazan

"We are moving to a new technology, but in the past we were using an Eliza method which we have to batch. We would have to use ninety-six tests to run the samples and we'll wait until we get ninety-six to be able to do those tests. With the new technology we will be able to test every day. As you come in we will test. Because of that technology we use to buy kits that come in ninety-six tests per kit or four hundred and eighty tests per kit so we had to wait. There was a shortage in delivering those kits to us.� So we were not really out of the reagents at all. We were short so what we did was we started to ration it. As to be able to provide for emergency situations."

The elimination of the wait-time is one the immediate benefits of the new screening technology. It also can screen for new viruses not tested for before.

Dr. Gerhaldine Morazan

"The nice part about it is that within the day, we can get the results and then we won't have to batch it anymore. As they come today. We will be releasing the results by the end of the day. That gives us a good benefit case when you produce platelets, which are used for hemorrhagic dengue support in the patients. We will have those platelets cause as they come we can produce the platelets that same day."

This week, seven medical laboratory technologists from the Serology Unit are being trained to use the new machine. The trainees all welcomed the improved technology.

Ruby Aguillon, Medical Lab Technologist, Head of Serology Dept.

"We are the one in charge of screening the blood units for transfusion. Before it use to take longer because of the process we use to test the blood. But with this new machine it's more easier and less time consuming and in less than half hour we can have results."

Reena Usher-Ordonez, Medical Lab Technologist, Serology Dept

"We're learning how the equipment works and how the reagents work, how to calibrate and basically everything about this machine."

Marleni Cuellar
"How is it going to change the work that you do here?"

Reena Usher-Ordonez

"It's gonna have us able to get more work done in less time so it's got be music better for us and we will be able to do a lot more tests that we weren't able to do before."

Celso Carrera, Acting Quality Assurance Coordinator, MoH

"This is one of the leading brands for the region, Cobas. It is a fully automated analyzer with the one of the leading technology employed in the machine. I will mean that we will be able to provide faster results better turnaround time. We can handle a bigger load. That means more blood donors. Once they come in and donate we can handle whatever amount there is. So the productivity will increase a lot."

Dr. Gerhaldine Morazan

"Each individual have that responsibility that when coming to donate their lifestyle has to be healthy. We at the blood bank, our responsibility is to ensure that when we screen and interview the person, when we are interviewing we think of how this person may be donating to a child."

The Ministry of Health has secured two units. One will be dedicated to the daily screening of donated blood, and the other will be reserved for clinical tests.

Channel 5