When the electrical grid comes back on-line in Haiti, the country’s laboratory system will be able to ramp up services quickly thanks to measures put in place before the magnitude 7.0 temblor January 12.
Even before the devastating earthquake, electrical power in Haiti was unreliable, with routine outages and serious voltage and frequency variations that compromised laboratory testing. Outages can lead to the loss of valuable testing reagents that must be stored at controlled temperatures, while “dirty power” is damaging to a wide range of laboratory equipment, including instruments used for diagnostic testing to support antiretroviral treatment for HIV-infected patients.
With funding from CDC’s Global AIDS Program and funding and technical assistance from the US Agency for International Development, APHL invested in site-specific technologies to improve the quality of the power received from the electric grid and provide continuous power during grid power outages. The core technologies include uninterruptible power supplies, generator back-up power with automatic transfer switches and no-contact inverter battery systems.
In addition, APHL has provided on-site maintenance and supervisory support visits with two-person teams comprised of one laboratory technologist and one service technician that travel to 16 supported sites throughout the country. Thankfully, Haiti’s national public health laboratory, the Laboratoire National de Santé Publique in Port-au-Prince, remains standing in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Although the massive relief effort has consumed all the country’s resources—with surviving laboratory staff understandably focusing on their homes and families—APHL is hopeful that conditions will improve enough to enable public health testing to resume in the not too distant future. At that point, the electrical support infrastructure will be a valuable help.