x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pathology labs will cut waiting for test results

A new national pathology laboratory will open by the end of the year, dramatically reducing the number of medical samples that have to be sent abroad.

ABU DHABI // A new national pathology laboratory will open by the end of the year, dramatically reducing the number of medical samples that have to be sent abroad to be tested and cutting waiting times for anxious patients. The first phase of Mubadala's National Reference Laboratory (NRL) network is a 12,000 sq ft facility at the Dubai Biotech and Research Park. Another laboratory in Musaffah, Abu Dhabi, is expected to open next summer.

The facilities will cut waiting on test results for illnesses and diseases, including cancer and diabetes, from weeks or months to days. Richard Cotten, the NRL's general manager, said the first laboratory would predominantly serve Dubai. When it opens next year, the bigger Abu Dhabi facility will be able to perform 4,000 tests per day. Both facilities will be certified by the College of American Pathologists.

Mark Erhart, the executive director of Mubadala Healthcare, said the new network would fill a gap in UAE facilities that had been handled by laboratories abroad. Many physicians, clinics and hospitals currently send samples overseas, many of them going to Europe. The system can leave patients having to wait weeks, sometimes months, for results. When patients were waiting to hear whether or not they had cancer, one week made a big difference to both the effectiveness of their treatment and their frame of mind, said Mr Erhart.

The laboratories will be equipped to carry out more detailed analysis, including gene-based tests, which are used in oncology, toxicology, microbiology and endocrinology. Mr Erhart said the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi identified a need for a reference laboratory many years ago and the decision to go ahead with the project was partly based on this, as well as feedback from health care providers. "We engaged with the health authority and public and private hospitals, as well as physicians, and they all indicated that there were a number of tests being sent outside," said Mr Erhart.

"Our goal is to develop the infrastructure and expertise in the UAE that will help reduce test turnaround times and associated costs, as well as delays to critical diagnoses and subsequent treatment for patients." Mubadala has previously said it will be able to turn around many critical test results in under two hours. Mr Erhart said about 80 per cent of diagnoses were based on laboratory test results. They are used in almost every health speciality to diagnose, treat and monitor the health of a patient.

"There are a significant number sent abroad, primarily to Europe, and that has implications both in terms of turnaround and cost logistics," Mr Erhart said. Mubadala would not say how much the project will cost. But it promised that the Abu Dhabi laboratory would set a new "benchmark for quality standards" in the region. The NRL initiative has been created in partnership with Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, one of the largest clinical laboratory networks in the world.

The American laboratory network performs around one million tests per day and employs more than 30,000 people. Other Mubadala Healthcare projects include the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, the Abu Dhabi Knee and Sports Medicine Centre and the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, a 360-bed hospital which is expected to open in 2012. A spine centre and a wellness and diagnostic centre are also expected to open in coming years.


munderwood@thenational.ae