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A brief update – March 2016

Established in 1980, the Pacific Paramedical Training Centre [PPTC] is a not-for-profit incorporated organization located on the  Wellington Hospital campus, New Zealand. The PPTC is a Collaborating Centre of the World Health Organization, Western Pacific Region, and its mission is to provide training in the appropriate Medical Laboratory Sciences, external quality assurance programmes and its development related assistance for the clinical laboratory and blood transfusion services. Particular emphasis being placed on the developing countries of the Pacific  Region.

The teaching and development aid programmes offered by the PPTC are governed by one principle: ‘They must be appropriate, affordable and sustainable for the health care setting in which they will be used’. The emphasis is on appropriate and practical short-term training,  that will ensure immediate benefit for the trainees in their work setting. In 1990 the PPTC was designated a WHO Collaborating Centre for External Quality Assurance and is now the leading provider of EQA Programmes to the Pacific Islands.

In 2006 the PPTC commenced a Distance Learning Programme in conjunction with WHO and now provides courses in the majority of the Medical Laboratory Science disciplines in addition to the teaching and training courses provided in-country and at its Centre in Wellington.

The PPTC has extensive experience working in laboratory strengthening throughout the Pacific and it is well respected by Pacific Governments for its ability to understand and work within Pacific cultures.

Through the continued support of the New Zealand Overseas Development Programme, the PPTC  has been granted a new five year contract (2016 – 2020) in order to deliver it’s Pacific Laboratory Quality Accreditation Programme.

The  activity design on which the five year contract is based, was formulated through  a comprehensive analysis of the issues and state of laboratory services in the Pacific.  As a result, it has been decided to target investment to four specific countries as being more likely to achieve sustainable, transformational development than spreading services too thinly across the region.  Countries selected for specific investment include Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

This activity aligns itself with the New Zealand Aid Strategic goals to improve the health of the people in these Pacific countries as a key achievement focus area and  investment priority.

This initiative will improve the health of our Pacific people and the regional health status against infectious disease outbreaks and enable early detection of chronic diseases through improved medical laboratory diagnostic services. It will improve Pacific Health through quality improvement measures established within the medical laboratory services. Such measures will ensure that the services are appropriate, affordable and sustainable to support diagnostic health services and treatment options.

 This will be achieved by

  • Increasing the workforce capability and capacity of Pacific laboratories.
  • Strengthening the infrastructure and expanding the scope of testing within laboratory services.

This programme to be delivered by the PPTC will:

  • Develop an accreditation framework for each selected Pacific Medical Laboratory, that enables it to be measured against international ISO15189 standards;
  • Support laboratories in the four selected countries to continue the progress towards the development and achievement of internationally recognised accreditation standards.

This will be achieved in the following way:

  • Improve laboratory capability and capacity for the detection and management of infectious diseases, their diagnosis  and the monitoring risk of non-communicable diseases and associated safe management of blood transfusion products.
  • Increase the quality of laboratory sensitivity testing and antibiotic advice to clinicians to ensure that the most appropriate antibiotic is used. This will contribute to international endeavours to address the rise of anti-microbial resistance.
  • Increase the sustainability of laboratory services by increasing the range of tests able to be performed in-country, thus increasing the timeliness of results and reducing the reliance on expensive off-shore referral testing;
  • Provide an external quality assurance programme and regional benchmarking for laboratory performance and associated risks.
  • Provide foundational courses for Pacific laboratory technicians through in- country centre based training and distance learning.

Greetings to you all,

Wellington based training courses 2015. 


The Haematology course for 2015 which commenced on the 2nd March and concluded on the 27th March once again was an excellent learning opportunity for the students who attended. The five students included, Epitani Vaka (Tonga), Stephen Able and Terry Kalorib (Vanuatu), Maud Faumuina (American Samoa), and Barieti Itaaken (Kiribati)

Phil Wakem the PPTC’s CEO and Haematology specialist was the principal lecturer for this course and the PPTC is very grateful to Elizabeth Tough (Chief Morphologist, Haematology Dept, Wellington Hospital,) for sharing her expertise and experience in blood – borne parasitology with the students. Elizabeth was also our guest speaker and presenter to the students on graduation day.

Haematology Class

Haematology Class 2015 Students and PPTC Staff

Stephen Able and Elizabeth Tough

Stephen Able and Elizabeth Tough

Health and Safety and Infectious Diseases

The Health and Safety and Infectious Disease course provided by the PPTC, commenced on the 13th April and concluded on the 8th May. Russell Cole, the PPTC’s Laboratory Quality Manager and Microbiology expert, was the principal lecturer for the duration of this course and must be congratulated for its success especially as it was a new course introduced this year. The five students who attended this course were as follows:

Mr Semisi Lenati from Tonga ;  Elaine Hevoho, Pamela Umbu, and Fova Naoka from Papua New Guinea; and Makerita Ieremia from Samoa.

The PPTC wishes to thank Manisha Morar (Quality Assurance and Occupational Health Administrator, Aotea Pathology), Ricky Benn (Med Lab Scientist, Wellington Hospital Biochemistry Dept)  and the staff from ESR  for donating their valuable time to our students over the duration of the course.

Health and Safety 2015 : Students and PPTC Staff

Health and Safety 2015 : Students and PPTC Staff

Health and Safety 2015 : Students and PPTC Staff
Health and Safety 2015 : Students and PPTC Staff

The three remaining courses for this year which are to be offered at the Centre in Wellington include:

  • Microbiology: 31st  August – 25th  September 2015
  • Phlebotomy: 5th  October – 23rd  October 2015 [Cancelled]
  • Blood Transfusion Science: 2nd  November – 27th  November 2015

The PPTC Regional External Quality Assessment Programme

The PPTC has great pleasure  in welcoming  Max Reed  to the  PPTC in the capacity of joint co-ordinator for the PPTC’s REQA Biochemistry programme. Max is currently HOD of Biochemistry and Haematology at Aotea Pathology Ltd in Wellington.  She is a fellow of the NZIMLS, a Member of the AACB and is the NZ representative on both the AACB Education committee and Harmonisation Working Group.

She has worked in both hospital and private laboratory settings and has a particular interest in education in all areas of laboratory medicine, having been involved in moderating the NZ university courses in Medical Laboratory Science, as well as tutoring and mentoring Scientist, Technician, Phlebotomy and Specimen Reception candidates in both their examination and continuing education goals.

Filipo Faiga is currently  the  Biochemistry  Section Head  at Wellington Hospital, a PPTC Board member and an experienced Biochemistry consultant who has worked with the PPTC for many years now.

Now that the  PPTC’s  REQA programme has expanded to 65 Laboratories Pacific wide, both Maxine and Filipo have agreed to share the Biochemistry Coordinators role now that Clare Murphy  has retired, and we are very grateful to them both.  Maxine will oversee the Cambodian programme, and Filipo will oversee the Pacific programme.


Overseas travel


On the 18th May, Susan Evans ( Supervising Scientist – Wellington Blood Bank, New Zealand Blood Service) travelled to Tonga at the request of the  PPTC as a consultant for Blood Transfusion Services and carried out teaching and training at Vaiola Hospital in Blood Banking. This visit was of great benefit to the laboratory in terms of Sue’s wealth of experience and expertise, and there is a strong possibility that a return visit will be made nearing the end of the year to assess and evaluate the progress of good practise that she was able to initiate during her visit.


Between the 25th and 29th May, Phil carried out a Laboratory Quality Management visit to Apia’s National Hospital primarily for the purposes of process improvement within the Haematology Laboratory.

Filipo is scheduled to visit Apia’s National  Hospital for two weeks in July-August to carry out Biochemistry training. During the two weeks, Filipo will also visit Savaii, to assess the laboratory overall in terms of its quality systems.

 Marshall Islands

Both Phil and Russell visited the Marshall Islands from the 15th - 19th June to facilitate further implementation of principles and  concepts of the Laboratory Quality Management  programme and monitor its progression since the last visit in June 2014.

 Cambodia and the PPTC’s regional External Quality assessment programme

WHO Cambodia have requested that the PPTC provide  four  weeks of teaching and training  in Cambodia to enhance the REQA performance of the Cambodian laboratories currently registered on the PPTC’s REQA programme. Phil and Navin Karan (PPTC Programme Manager) will provide the first workshop in July and a second workshop will be provided by Phil and Russell later in the year.


Russell and Navin are scheduled to visit Vanuatu between the 6th and 10th July to assess progress of Laboratory Quality Management implementation in the laboratories of both Port Vila and Espiritu Santo. Visits to Vanuatu have been placed on hold in past months due to the devastation of Cyclone Pam and the disruption to services within Vanuatu. The country is beginning to recover slowly and the PPTC can now continue its valuable work in promoting quality throughout each of the laboratories diagnostic processes.

 The desperate need for Pathologists in the Pacific

Most Pacific laboratories do not have the luxury of recruiting and financially supporting full time Pathologists. With reference to a very small number of Pacific Laboratories that are supported by a general Pathologist, Medical oversight of the diagnostic services has proved to be extremely valuable in terms of relationship development between Hospital Clinicians and the Laboratory, critical diagnostic interpretation, service accountability, and assistance given to the PPTC in its pursuit of Laboratory Quality Management throughout all laboratory processes.

In 2016 the PPTC will consider the establishment of a scheme to recruit NZ Pathologists on a temporary/rotational basis to visit laboratories in the Pacific region offering clinical/diagnostic and managerial expertise. In defining a Pathologist, the PPTC refers to discipline specific specialists including  Haematologists, Cytologists, Anatomic Pathologists, Microbiologists, Chemical Pathologists, and  Immunohaematologists. The main advantage of a rotational system is that a selection of Pathologists (as above) who are specialists in their own field could be commissioned if possible by the PPTC at different times throughout the year. The consultancies could vary between one week and four weeks and the duration of stay would be dependent on the current need each country’s health system has identified.

Dr Julia Phillips ( Resident Haematologist, Wellington Hospital) will accompany Phil on visits to Tonga, and Samoa in the second half of this year, and possibly Vanuatu later in the year for the purpose of Haematology training in blood film examination, cell recognition and clinical interpretation. Julia will also interact with clinical staff to identify Haematological issues and strengthen diagnostic processes.

For Pathologists who are interested in short term consultancies in the Pacific Islands, please contact Phil Wakem at the PPTC for further information. ( .

Phil wishes to sincerely thank all Medical Laboratory Scientists who have forwarded their names and CV’s to be considered for future short term Haematology consultancies in the Pacific. He now wishes to compile a list of Biochemistry , Microbiology and Blood Banking Medical Laboratory Scientists who have had at least 5 – 7 yrs experience in their chosen discipline as well as Laboratory Quality Management and who would be interested in future short term projects for the PPTC.