St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS), St. Maarten’s only medical laboratory, is celebrating its tenth anniversary. SLS has made strides in advancing its capabilities. It boasts state-of-the-art equipment, expert staff, and has become much more self-reliant over the past years.

With an increased ability to complete more techniques and specialised tests, SLS has become much less dependent on French St. Martin. With few exceptions which include pap smears and histology tests that are sent to the Netherlands, most necessary tests can be done in-house – translating to better efficiency in terms of both time and money.“Every department within the lab has grown without exception,” explains SLS Director, Dr. Nasser Ajubi, who has been with the company since 2014. “SLS has been here to serve the community and is putting every single effort into improving its services to the benefit of the people of St. Maarten.”

Over the past years, quality officers and IT personnel have been added to the staff. Some 38 employees now operate under the guidance of two lab professionals, Dr. Ajubi and consultant medical microbiologist, Dr. Steingrover.

With its high-tech equipment including a state-of-the-art analyser, testing capabilities are expected to expand even more.

Over the past year and a half in particular, the lab has expanded its autoimmune testing, and can now perform a technique called protein electrophoresis. As of more recently, it can also test for vitamin D and a marker for rheumatoid arthritis: anti-CCP (anticyclic citrullinated peptide).

As of the middle of this month, another high-tech analyser will be in use at SLS, allowing for rapid detection of multiple pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites) in stool or respiratory tract samples using a molecular biology (PCR) technique. More than 20 different pathogens can be identified simultaneously from a sample, the results available within the hour.

In collaboration with St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), point-of-care analysers (or small rapid testing machines) have been placed in the intensive care unit and hospital staffers have been trained to use them for quick testing, so that they have some results before the detailed laboratory tests arrive.

These can be used, for example, to administer quick Blood Gas Tests right at the bedside of patients with shortness of breath. The test can, within as little as two minutes, use a blood sample to indicate why a patient has the shortness of breath, and how well the patient is doing. This is especially valuable for patients who are critically ill. Other departments are also requesting the analysers.

SLS’ diverse range of clients and partners includes SMMC, doctors, GEBE and other utility plants on Saba and St. Eustatius, government’s Collective Prevention Services, and the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine.In addition to Saba and St. Eustatius, SLS hopes to offer its services on other neighbouring islands in the near future. First, however, the company would like to gain international accreditation.

SLS hopes to gain the NEN ISO 15189 certification. The lab started with the long process over four years ago, and is now in the last stages of preparing the necessary documents. It hopes to gain the ISO certification before the end of this year.

Besides the main building in Cay Hill, SLS also operates in the hospital emergency lab, Dutch Quarter, Betty’s Estate, and recently opened another centre at Simpson Bay Yacht Club.

The staff will celebrate the anniversary this Monday, September 10, while another celebration will be held later on this year, to thank clients, suppliers and other important stakeholders.

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