Wellington Lab Visit

Wellington Lab Hosts Pacific Scientists

Published on: Awanui- The Lab- 21st April 2023

Acknowledging Awanui- The Lab for this publication.

Last week, our team at the Wellington hospital lab welcomed scientists from the Pacific Pathology Training Centre (PPTC) for a tour of the laboratory.

“The PPTC does great work in providing training and support for medical laboratories across the Pacific and South-East Asia. These visits are an opportunity for their scientists to see first-hand the work we are doing, all our equipment and automation, and to support their continuing education,” says Wellington Operations Manager Max Reed.

PPTC senior manager Russell Cole says the new staff and students at the Centre are “scientific missionaries.”

“All our scientists have different specialist areas and will be involved in consultation work across the Pacific region’s laboratories.

These labs are often not as technically advanced or automated to the level we see here in Wellington, so this visit enables our scientists to build their knowledge, future vision and expertise, so they can train the trainers across the Pacific and inspire them towards international accreditation standards of practice.”

Wellington Lab Visit

L-R- Emmanuel Marshall (Consultant Laboratory technology and Information Systems and Education Manager, Russel Cole ( Laboratory Quality Manager  and Microbiology Specialist), Angela Lewis (Consultant Molecular Testing Platforms and Portable Laboratory Projects Manager, Telesia Apikotoa (Consultant Laboratory Quality Management and Blood Transfusion Specialist)

The Pacific Way Update 2023- Volume 1

Mr. Karl Romjin

Welcome to the PPTC’s new Financial
Karl Romijn

Karl is a qualified
Chartered Accountant who gained his Bachelor of Commerce and Administration
from Victoria University, Wellington in 2010. His professional roles have
included senior business advisor, commercial account manager, and chief
financial officer for several organisations in Wellington and apart from having
an absolute love for numbers, spreadsheets and financial data, he is an avid
and keen sportsman who continues to play and coach a variety of sports
including football, tennis, and cricket

Mr. John Farrell

Farewell to John Farrell for over 10 years of Service to the PPTC

John is a qualified Chartered Accountant who provided accounting services to a number of not-for-profit organisations including the PPTC. John was Chief Accountant for 14 years with Lotto NZ where he managed a team of accounting professionals. John has also provided accounting services to the National Bank of NZ as well as Child, Youth and Family. John worked for not-for-profit organisations for many years, an area in which he developed broad knowledge and skills in both their accounting and business needs. The PPTC thanks John for his fine efforts as Financial Controller of the PPTC for over 9 years and his dedication and commitment to the Pacific Region in assisting PPTC Consultants in meeting the health needs within Pacific communities. The PPTC wishes John the very best for his approaching retirement and hopes he can now take the long-awaited rest that he is deserving of.

November 2022 Cambodia

The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Western Pacific presented the Fourth Regional Forum of WHO Collaborating Centres in the Western Pacific from 28 to 29 November 2022 in Siem Reap, Cambodia and Phil Wakem (CEO) and John Elliot (PPTC Chair) were invited to attend as representatives of the PPTC. The PPTC has carried the title of WHO Collaborating Centre for External Quality Assessment since 1990. The Forum enabled WHO and its Collaborating Centres to reflect on how they have worked together since the previous Forum, and using the lessons identified from the last 4 years, participants were able to identify opportunities to maximize the contribution of WHO Collaborating Centres in countries to respond to current and future health challenges.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, addressing participants via video message.

Can you help?

If any New Zealand medical laboratories have
items of diagnostic instrumentation that have been recently upgraded or
continue to be stored in the laboratory but are actually surplus to
requirements, the PPTC would be most grateful if such items could be donated
through its Centre to Pacific Island laboratories where there is an exceptional
need. Pacific laboratories have very restricted budgets and often cannot afford
to replace troublesome instrumentation that continues to breakdown and which is
often discontinued because it is so outdated.

The PPTC would also welcome teaching resources in terms of wall charts, Haematology case studies (stained blood films), projector slides, textbooks and journals (within 10 yrs of publication) etc , for teaching purposes in the Pacific, if you no longer have a use for them. Any contribution is so valuable to us.


Phil Wakem
Chief Executive Officer
Pacific Pathology Training Centre
New Zealand
Email: pptc @ or phil @

Pacific Way August 2021

COVID-19 Technical Training Support to the Rarotonga Hospital Laboratory Services

 In preparation to open Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZ-MFAT), on behalf of the Cook Islands, Te Marae Ora, requested face-to-face technical training support from the Pacific Pathology Training Centre to setup COVID-19 RT-PCR testing in Rarotonga.

 The PPTC accepted this request and in association with the Doherty Institute (Melbourne), delivered face-to-face training in-country which complemented online training that had already been planned for the Cook Islands. Navin Karan, the PPTC’s Project Manager, and Molecular specialist carried out this training for 4 staff in the country which was two weeks in duration, and it is planned that two consolidation one-week visits will follow a month apart.

 Through recent modifications, the laboratory services established a clean room, extraction room, and amplification room for its real-time RT-PCR setup. During the initial two weeks visit, the laboratory was set up with all equipment supplied through Pacific Community (SPC), the workflow was established, and staff were practically trained on all aspects of performing molecular testing for SARS-CoV-2 in the country, which included performing manual extractions from nasopharyngeal swabs. At the completion of practical training, the laboratory successfully performed testing on its  validation panel and went live with clinical sample testing in the second week of May, just before the travel bubble opened on 17 May 2021.

CK 1

Above: Ms Iva Vakalalabure, Laboratory Scientist performing extractions at the PCR laboratory in Rarotonga. Below: Laboratory Scientists, Ms Iva Vakalalabure and Ms Theresa Tatuava performing result analysis on the CFX Maestro after a PCR run. CK 2

COVID-19 Support to Fiji

Establishing PCR testing Facilities in Nadi

The Pacific Pathology Training Centre (PPTC) is currently working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MOHMS) to design and construct a mobile/container laboratory system which will be established in Nadi, capable of RT-PCR testing and a range of other necessary tests near this port of entry. This laboratory would be expected to perform up to 200 COVID-19 tests a day by RT-PCR.

 As part of this contract, the PPTC is also responsible for the implementation of appropriate validated and verified items of equipment as well as the provide reagent supplies and testing kits that would deliver the set testing menus, required by the medical laboratory service for Nadi.

The construction of the 4 unit mobile/container laboratory is now well underway and its footprint will be sufficient for the delivery of RT-PCR testing to include two thermocyclers, two semi-automated RNA extraction analysers, three biosafety cabinets, two PCR work stations and all other equipment associated with the provision of this service. Testing procedures will be in line with existing Fiji and international standards. Initially, the RT-PCR laboratory will be set up for COVID-19 testing. It will however have sufficient scope to expand on the molecular diagnostic capacity in the future.

 Reagent, Consumables and Equipment Support to Fiji CDC – Suva

 Due to the recent spread of COVID-19 through community transmission in Fiji in April 2021, MFAT requested PPTC to supply gloves, gowns, masks, nasopharyngeal collection swabs and VTM, biohazard specimen bags, PCR reagents, a Thermo Cycler for RT-PCR and refrigerated centrifuges to the Fiji Centre of Communicable Diseases (Fiji CDC) to further strengthen their testing capacity. The PPTC has been responsible for the procurement, delivery and installation of the laboratory equipment and consumables to support RT-PCR testing in Fiji. This included logistical and technical advisory support to ensure safe transportation and installation.

The PPTC has been able to procure most of the items and is currently waiting for the delivery of the centrifuges. Through these activities, the PPTC continues to work in partnership with MFAT in responding to and strengthening the Pacific’s health system, including Fiji.

FJ 1

Setup of Bio-Rad CFX96 Thermocycler by Medica Pacifica Staff  and Fiji CDC staff receiving the “turn-key” CFX96 on Tuesday 25 May 2021

FJ 2

COVID-19 Support to Kiribati

The Pacific Community (SPC) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) on behalf of the Government of Kiribati (GoK) engaged the Pacific Pathology Training Centre (PPTC) to oversee the refurbishment of shipping container units, to be used as a mobile PCR laboratory. As part of this project, the PPTC worked with the container supplier to ensure that the testing laboratory was fit for purpose, with remodelling based on detailed specifications discussed with the Kiribati Health team, SPC and the Doherty Institute.

 The PPTC was also responsible for the final shipping and transportation of the container units locally within New Zealand and internationally, to Tarawa, Kiribati. The container units departed New Zealand on 14 April and arrived in Kiribati on 1st  May 2021. A number of setup items were also provided to the GoK to help set up the units in Kiribati. The PPTC has delivered multiple remote sessions with the GoK staff to help connect the units together and have them functional.


Above: Initial placement of container laboratory onto a constructed platform                Below: Inside view of the container PCR laboratory in Kiribati – Extraction room.

KI 2

Electricity and plumbing now awaits completion as does the unpacking and installation of all PCR equipment. Once the laboratory is functional, coordinated training will be provided to dedicated staff by VIDRL (Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory) and the Doherty Institute located in Melbourne.

COVID-19 Support to Niue

The PPTC through the support of WHO, designed and arranged the construction and delivery of a mobile/container laboratory, with the inclusion and implementation of appropriate validated/verified equipment. The PPTC was also responsible for the provision of specialist training of staff as well as the provision of essential reagents and kits to ensure that all laboratory test menu requirements had been met for Niue’s Foou hospital.


Wellington celebration of the mobile/container laboratory completion before its journey to Niue.


Inside view of the container laboratory


Pacific Way April 2021

COVID 19 continues to threaten the Pacific

The global pandemic has had a serious impact on PPTC operations, causing a sizable disruption to our overseas in-country training programmes, and to the Wellington Centre based courses, due to international border closures.

We are however fortunate that both the PPTC’s External Quality Assessment Programme and the  Diploma programme have continued relatively uninterrupted.

 With the virus spreading globally,  all efforts are being made to ensure that countries are prepared and ready to respond, in situations  where COVID infection has been detected.

In the Pacific, countries are increasing their efforts to ensure that their health services have reached an acceptable level of preparedness to rapidly detect and respond to the threats of COVID-19.

The PPTC is continuously assisting in Pacific preparedness against COVID 19 and is currently working with WHO (World Health Organization), NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pacific Ministries of Health, the Pacific Community (SPC), the Australian  Dept  of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Doherty Institute (Melbourne) to establish COVID diagnostic and treatment  facilities in Pacific Countries, the majority of which would face the devastating effects of COVID in the event of community spread .

 Selected PPTC activities (2020-2021) currently delivered to the Pacific can be listed as follows:

 Tokelau: In 2020, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) engaged the Pacific Pathology Training Centre (PPTC) to implement the procurement and refit of a shipping container that would accommodate a GeneXpert with associated training and support. As part of this activity, the PPTC has been required to work with the container supplier to ensure that the mini testing laboratory is fit for purpose, with remodelling based on detailed specifications provided by WHO and SPC. The PPTC has overseen the procurement of a biosafety cabinet and its installation into the container laboratory. Furthermore, the PPTC has procured additional laboratory equipment for basic diagnostic testing (as requested by Tokelau) and has overseen the supply and installation of this equipment into the container as well as its transport to Tokelau.

 The laboratory units have been successfully set up in Nukunonu, allowing for the country to now have a functional laboratory capable of effective diagnosis and management of the disease. Through online zoom sessions, the PPTC has successfully set up a GeneXpert for the testing of COVID-19, a Haematology FBC analyser, Blood Gas analysers, a Cardiac POC Troponin T analyser, and a DCA Vantage for the hospital’s laboratory service. The PPTC staff continue to work with Tokelau laboratory staff, Mr Orisi Matatolu and their Director of Health, Dr Silivia Tavite in setting up request forms, operational manuals, handbooks and clinical guidelines, and continue to work on method development for the local setting. Once international travel resumes, the PPTC intends to travel to Tokelau to provide further training and support to Tokelau.


The Kiribati Medical Services is awaiting the refurbishment of their existing hospital facility to house a molecular testing platform (RT-PCR) to test and diagnose the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This refurbishment has been delayed and will take approximately a year to complete. In order to ensure that testing can commence as soon as possible, it has been proposed that a container unit is refurbished as a mobile PCR laboratory while the hospital facilities are upgraded. The Pacific Community (SPC) and the Government of Kiribati (GoK) have engaged the PPTC to oversee the refurbishment of shipping container units, to be used as a mobile PCR laboratory. As part of this project, the PPTC is currently working with the container supplier to ensure that the testing laboratory is fit for purpose, with remodelling based on detailed specifications discussed with the Kiribati Health team, SPC and the Doherty Institute. The PPTC will oversee the shipping and transportation of the container units locally within New Zealand and internationally, to Tarawa, Kiribati.

The container units are due to depart New Zealand on the 12th of March and is scheduled to arrive in Tarawa on the 27th of March. The laboratory units will then be set up by local trade staff with online support from the PPTC, making it ready for the mass testing of SARS-Cov-2 on RT-PCR platforms.


Healthcare is provided by Foou Hospital, Alofi which has 20 beds, outpatient clinics, pharmacy, X-ray, ultrasound and medical laboratory. Non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure/hypertension, gout, asthma and cancer are a major health care concerns in Niue. Although there are currently no cases of COVID-19 in Niue the country needs to be prepared for its introduction as the movement of people recommences with the likelihood of transmission. These preparations will include a testing strategy and capacity appropriate for the population of Niue and its visitors.

 The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for improved biosafety within Niue’s medical laboratory services. However, it has also provided an opportunity to build general capacity, and sustainability. WHO has contracted the PPTC to design and arrange the construction of a mobile/container laboratory, with the inclusion and implementation of appropriate validated/verified equipment that will deliver the range of necessary tests. The PPTC will also  provide the relevant training to staff  as well as reagents and kits delivered on a regular basis to support this  medical laboratory service for Niue’s Foou hospital.

Progress is ongoing, with almost all laboratory equipment and consumables being delivered to the PPTC ready to be installed into the laboratory units. The units are being refurbished in Nelson, and are expected to be in Wellington for the fit-out by early March. These are expected to depart Wellington by mid-March, arriving into Niue early April, after which the PPTC staff will provide on-line zoom training sessions to Niue Health Staff to set-up the laboratory and the installed laboratory equipment.


Fiji CDC  (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention)

The PPTC has been commissioned through SPC supported by DFAT to conduct a virtual external Laboratory Quality Management Audit of the CDC based in Suva Fiji.

An Audit will be conducted by the PPTC Quality Manager/ Consultant Mr Russell Cole in February using the SLIPTA audit tool modified by the PPTC to include all the elements of the ISO15189 standards.


The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has required the rapid introduction of large scale molecular detection methods in diagnostic laboratories across New Zealand. Diagnostic laboratories have had to meet unprecedented demand for testing to support the NZ COVID-19 Public Health response. However, limited reagent supply chains have led to a number of challenges including the rapid introduction of kits and methods to ensure ongoing laboratory testing capacity. New Zealand is now well on the way towards “elimination” of COVID-19 with very low numbers of detected cases each day. Due to the 2019 Coronavirus outbreak, the PPTC has been asked to establish an EQA programme for the SARS-CoV2 disease for the Pacific region. The purpose of the SARS-CoV-2 EQA programme is to provide additional quality assurance for laboratories in the Pacific region, given that there are no positive results being detected.

With the assistance of ESR, who are supplying the programme materials and their technical expertise, a COVID-19 EQA panel has now been  incorporated into the existing PPTC EQAP ( which provides for other medical laboratory science disciplines, supported by the  New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.)

Both WHO and MFAT contributed to the funding of the newly developed COVID-19 panel and its delivery. The PPTC dispatched two cycles of the COVID-19 panel to 23 Pacific Laboratories in 2020, and two additional cycles have been scheduled for  2021. It is hoped that further funding will be available to continue this programme beyond 2021.

Under the COVID-19 support provided to the Pacific Region by the New Zealand Government, the PPTC is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide ongoing laboratory technical advisory services to the Pacific Ministries of Health and to its regional stakeholders including MFAT.

Pacific Way November 2020

The Tokelau’s

The PPTC was requested by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to set up a mobile laboratory unit for Tokelau in response to a potential  COVID outbreak that threatened the small Pacific Nation in May 2020.

 The PPTC  worked with an NZ-based container modification company and successfully arranged the joining of two 20ft containers to house a laboratory setup for Tokelau. This double unit containing an appropriately designed internal infrastructure, along with newly purchased laboratory equipment and consumables was successfully shipped from Auckland to Samoa and then to Tokelau. On receipt in Tokelau’s the portable laboratory was then positioned on the islands hospital campus where water and power were connected.

The PPTC fully equipped the laboratory with general and specialised laboratory equipment and will oversee training of staff on site (once international borders re-open) as well as through zoom. The modification of the container system and the procurement of the equipment began on the 4th of June and setup was completed ready for transportation to Tokelau on the 24th of July. The PPTC’s experience and expertise enable it to provide the same service to other countries if there is a need, provided funding is available.

Tokelau 1

PPTC Staff, Mr Ross Adern ( Administrator for Tokelau), NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and  Trade, Australian AID, and members of the Wellington Tokelau community at an official gathering to celebrate the completion of the portable laboratory before its departure to Tokelau.

Tokelau 3

Tokelau 2

Internal and external photos of the laboratory.

Newly appointed members to the PPTC Board of Trustees

It is of great pleasure that the PPTC welcomes Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu  and Dr Vladimir Osipov as newly appointed members of the PPTC Board of Trustees.

Dr D

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu is currently the  Associate Dean (Pacific) at Otago University’s Wellington campus and is the first Tongan and Pacific biomedical scientist to be appointed to this role within the Division of Health Sciences at Otago.

Dianne completed her PhD in Biomedical Science at Victoria University of Wellington specializing in Immunology based at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research. While there, Dianne was a member of the cancer vaccines team and undertook work that explored the modification of these vaccines to generate stronger immune responses against cancer.

Dianne has received numerous awards for her PhD and other research work including the MacDiarmid New Zealand Young Scientist of the Year  – Advancing Human Health & Wellbeing, Colmar Brunton Research Excellence Award, Australasian Society of Immunology BD Science Communication award, Asia Pacific Science Technology Studies Networks New Contributions to Science Technology & Innovation Award – Indigenous studies and the Australasian Society of Immunology Buck Memorial Award among others. Dianne was also recipient of the Royal Order Award- the Most Illustrious Royal Order of Queen Salote Tupou III-Commander, awarded by the late King George Tupou V of Tonga in recognition of scientific achievement.

Dianne has strong research interests in areas of health research relevant to Pacific populations living in New Zealand and in the Region and is an Honorary Research Associate with the Wesfarmers Centre for Vaccines & Infectious Diseases, Telethon Kids Institute, Perth, Western Australia and Victoria University of Wellington, and is an Affiliate with the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery, University of Auckland.

Dr V

Dr Osipov trained in pathology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, followed by a subspecialty training at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, USA. He is a Fellow of the American College of Pathologists, and of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and is currently Chief Anatomical Pathologist for Southern Community Laboratories based in Wellington as well as Honorary Senior Lecturer, for the University of Otago. Dr Osipov’s areas of interest include gastrointestinal, skin, lung, urologic and orthopaedic pathology.

The PPTC External Quality Assessment Programme

The PPTC EQA programme has provided its quality service to the laboratories of the Asia–Pacific region for over 30 years. Since 1990 it has been recognised by WHO as a collaborating centre for External Quality Assessment in Health Laboratory Services.

Funded through the NZ Overseas Development programme, this service is delivered to over 100 regional laboratories.

It is provided to National Pacific laboratories free of charge, and this provides invaluable benefit to their national healthcare, directly impacting patient health outcomes. Close to 22 surveys are dispatched throughout the year covering the seven medical laboratory disciplines.

  • Haematology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Blood Transfusion Science
  • Infectious Disease Serology
  • Anatomical Pathology
  • Molecular Diagnostics – COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) (recently added to the PPTC Programme)

Due to the 2019 Coronavirus outbreak, the PPTC was asked by WHO to establish an EQA programme for the SARS-CoV2 disease for the Pacific region. The purpose of the SARS-CoV-2 EQA programme is to provide additional quality assurance for laboratories in the Pacific region, to prove the accuracy of detection rates.

 Pacific Joint Incident Management Team (JIMT)

Since early January 2020, the World Health Organization in the Pacific has been working closely alongside Pacific Governments and Ministries of Health, in collaboration with partners, to ensure that countries are well prepared to respond to the threat of COVID-19.

The PPTC has been invited to join as a member of the Pacific Joint Incident Management Team (JIMT, Lab cell) and WHO is coordinating with Pacific partners that constitute this team, to bring together resources and assist Pacific countries’ readiness to delay the spread of the virus and mitigate negative health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.

Activities that this  team is involved with include:

  • Training and technical guidance on critical preparedness, readiness and response actions for COVID-19
  • Working with government and community sectors
  • Procuring critical laboratory and medical supplies
  • Communicating with the public and engaging with communities

Pacific Way Update – April 2018

The PPTC has recently published a book which covers the past 30 years of its history and training activities at the Wellington Centre, the South Pacific and Asian regions.

This account will be of interest to the many members of the Institute who have contributed so much to the success of the PPTC over this period.

Please contact the PPTC for a copy. The cover page is illustrated below:

PPTC History

The intention of the book is twofold: to provide a record of this period and to foster a continuing interest in the development of the health laboratory services of the Pacific Island and Asian regions.

Despite its small size and limited resources, the Centre has become a major player in the development of medical laboratories and blood transfusion services in the Pacific Island region. It is also a small but significant part of the New Zealand overseas development aid programme.

The PPTC began with the aim of providing short-term technical training programmes in basic medical laboratory disciplines which would be appropriate, affordable and sustainable and could bring immediate benefits to the work settings in which they would be used.

While the PPTC has broadened its laboratory training programmes to meet the changing needs and new demands of the region’s health services, this philosophy still remains the Centre’s focus in 2018.

The Centre has international respect for the excellence of its programmes and has provided a continuing source of training and technical expertise for health laboratory workers throughout the Pacific Island and Asian regions.

 This contribution was recognised when the Centre was designated a Collaborating Centre of the World Health Organization in 1990 and it continues in this role to the present time.

In recording these events it is fitting to say that none of this would have been possible without the initial and continuing support of the following organisations and people:

  •  New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • New Zealand Red Cross
  • World Health Organization
  • New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science
  • Wellington Hospital
  • Department of laboratory Services , Wellington Hospital
  • New Zealand Blood Transfusion Service
  • Norman Kirk Trust

 About the Author 


Dr Ron Mackenzie (QSO, PhD, FNZIMLS)  the co-founder of the PPTC and author of the book is a retired medical laboratory scientist who led the PPTC from its earliest days on the Wellington Hospital campus. He is a life member of the NZIMLS  and worked in hospital medical laboratories from the early 1950’s in Kaitaia, Auckland, Masterton, Invercargill and Wellington.  He worked as a WHO and Red Cross medical Laboratory consultant,   and was a member of the first New Zealand Civilian Surgical Team to Qui Nhon, Vietnam in 1963. Ron was awarded the QSO in 1993  for the major role he had played in the development of the medical laboratory and blood transfusion services of the South Pacific and Asian regions.

Newly appointed staff to the PPTC


It is with pleasure that the PPTC Board of Governance welcomes Vichet Khieng to join the laboratory specialist team. Vichet graduated in 2008 with a Batchelor of Medical Laboratory Science from the University of Otago and majored in both advanced clinical biochemistry & diagnostic molecular pathology. In 2010, soon after gaining registration as a medical laboratory scientist while working at Dunedin hospital, he acted as technical manager at the Hawkes Bay community laboratories. He was responsible for the biochemistry department including reviews of the internal and external QC, manuals, and preparation for IANZ auditing. Vichet relocated to  Wellington in 2012 and joined the department of biochemistry at Wellington hospital. He has had wide experience in NZ hospital and community laboratories and will be a valuable addition to the PPTC staff.

External Quality Assessment in Haematology


Elizabeth Tough

Is a New Zealand registered medical laboratory scientist who has over 50 years experience in the leadership of blood film examination and evaluation.

In 1967 Elizabeth underwent 5 years of professional training at Wellington hospital and on completion, became scientist in charge of the general haematology laboratory and chief morphologist in the years to follow. She also became the hospital laboratory expert in blood parasitology and bone marrow preparation for microscopic evaluation.

Elizabeth has worked with the PPTC as a lecturer in blood parasitology and more recently has accepted the shared role of coordinator and haematology consultant for the PPTC’s haematology EQA programme

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.

This year the PPTC is offering 7 courses and these include:

  • Haematology and Blood Cell Morphology: 2 March – 27 March 2015
  • Health and Safety and Infectious Diseases: 13 April – 8 May 2015
  • Laboratory Quality Management Systems: 25 May – 19 June 2015
  • Biochemistry: 13 July – 7 August 2015
  • Microbiology: 31 August – 25 September 2015
  • Phlebotomy: 5 October – 23 October 2015
  • Blood Transfusion Science: 2 November – 27 November 2015

 New Centre Based courses for 2015

 Health and Safety and Infectious Diseases

 a)            Health and Safety Component:

Implementing a laboratory health and safety programme, hazard identification, risk assessment, laboratory premises and design, biohazard waste and disposal of contaminated material; Personal protection; Code of conduct; Staff health and medical surveillance; Administrative procedures; Chemical and dangerous goods storage; Material data safety sheets; Major incident response; Laboratory emergency planning; and Laboratory biosecurity concepts.

 b)           Infectious Diseases Component:

Notifiable diseases; Role of public health; Surveillance and monitoring disease outbreak; Workforce occupational exposure; Communicable diseases; What makes an epidemic; Vaccine availability; Bacterial causes of infectious diseases: Isolation procedures to identify and confirm major bacterial pathogens associated with gastrointestinal infections, seafood poisoning and marine environments, food and water contaminating organisms; Bacterial agents of pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis; Agents of sexually transmitted infections. Viral causes of infectious diseases: a selective summary of disease specific viruses such as gastrointestinal viruses; respiratory viruses; parasites of infectious disease and mycology review.


The PPTC is offering a three week training course on Phlebotomy. The course contents will address the following topics:

The role of a phlebotomist in the medical laboratory diagnostic process; Anatomy and physiology of specific human tissue (This will take into consideration sites of blood collection, and overall discussion with reference to the circulatory system and normal Haemostasis/Blood coagulation). Patient safety and safety of procedure; The practise of Infection control; Adverse incidents with the application of first aid; The Laboratory and its sample collection policy with reference to laboratory collection forms, Patient identification, Post collection requirements, Tests profiles and Test requirements; Medical abbreviations and medical terminology; Pre analytical variables such as patient status, Collection techniques, Sample storage and transportation; Blood collection (venous and Capillary); Patient assessment and preparation including considerations for both elderly patients and neonatal patients; Site preparation; Sample collection devices and equipment in terms of antiseptics, dressings, evacuated blood collection equipment’s, needles and syringes, tourniquets and sample collection tubes; The Collection process and post collection process for both venous and capillary samples; Blood culture collection; Specialised collection procedures, collection and handling of non-blood specimens (Urines, faeces, sputum, saliva, swabs, mycological samples and seminal fluid, in terms of equipment, collection, specimen stability, sterility, storage, transportation and handling; The handling and transportation of aspirates, Histology and Cytology samples; Specialised test procedures such as Bleeding time, Mantoux test and skin prick testing.

 In country teaching and training

Short term in-country teaching workshops have proven extremely valuable and have made an immediate and significant impact in terms of capacity expansion and up skilling personnel, however on-going consolidation programmes are essential if such a difference in the development or enhancement of skill is to be further advanced and maintained.

The PPTC is currently compiling a potential list of technical consultants who would be prepared to travel the Pacific region on request to assist with capacity building and strengthening  of Pacific Island laboratories.

The PPTC has labelled the situation in the Pacific in terms of Haematology and Biochemistry  as requiring intense corrective action and therefore it plans to intensify its presence through in – country training in 2015 recruiting additional Haematology and Biochemistry expert consultants to increase both frequency and coverage of visits across the Pacific. Consultancies are generally 1 to 2 weeks in  duration  and dependent on PPTC funding availability.

If you are a qualified NZ registered Medical Laboratory Scientist with at least 15 yrs experience in Haematology , Biochemistry or Laboratory Management and would like to be added to our list of consultants we would like to hear from you.

If you could forward a copy of your current CV  to the PPTC  it would be most appreciated.

Teaching resources

Depending on the availability of funding, the PPTC intends to supply appropriate learning material (text books, journals, etc) to Pacific laboratories that are desperately in need of educational resources so as a reference centre can be established within the laboratory as a promotional way forward in terms of professional development.

Can you help?

If any New Zealand medical laboratories have a surplus of teaching resources in terms of wall charts, Haematology stained blood films, projector slides, textbooks, journals etc, the PPTC would be most grateful if they could be donated through its Centre to Pacific Island laboratories where there is an exceptional need.

Overseas Travel:                                   

January 2015: Phil Wakem and Navin Karan both attended the PIHOA (Pacific Island Health Officers Association) meeting in Guam. The theme of this meeting focused on the enhancement of  quality with reference to the public health laboratory services in the US affiliated Pacific Islands through regional capacity building.

Russell Cole, the PPTC’S Laboratory Quality Manager carried out his first LQMS visit to Kiribati and during his stay also visited the Marine Training Centre to assess the laboratory’s quality programme.

Pacific Infectious Substances Shipping Training (ISST) -Nadi, Fiji , 9- 11 February 2015,

Navin attended the above  training workshop provided by WHO in Nadi  Fiji . The training addressed shipping requirements for all potentially infectious substances, focusing particularly  on highly infectious materials.  He also presented a paper on “Using New Zealand Laboratories for Diagnosis and Confirmation of Emerging Infectious Diseases” as part of the training session on “Strengthening Laboratory Preparedness to Emerging Infectious Diseases”.

ISST Fiji 2015

Farewell to Clare Murphy

Clare M


Clare is a NZ graduate from the Australian National University. She started her career in Laboratory work at what was then Gisborne Hospital, becoming a specialist in Clinical Chemistry at Wellington Hospital working mostly in Quality, initially in quality control, and latterly in quality management where she became the Laboratory Services Quality Manager for Capital and Coast DHB. Clare performed this role for many years.

Since 1987 and for nearly three decades on, Clare pioneered and managed the  PPTC  Clinical Chemistry External Quality Assessment Programme for laboratories across the Pacific and South East Asia. Clare initially began as a volunteer and took responsibility for 12 Pacific participating laboratories using Wellington Hospital QC material. From this, the programme has now expanded to 58 participants which now utilises RCPA QAP material and statistics allowing the programme to monitor a large variety of analytes. Clare has worked closely with the RCPA QAP, and their support and generosity is greatly appreciated by the PPTC.

It is of great sadness that we are to say farewell to Clare as the PPTC Regional External Quality Assurance Co-ordinator for Biochemistry. She has given total dedication and commitment to this programme and has contributed greatly to the education and capacity strengthening of Clinical Laboratories throughout the Pacific and South East Asian regions. The PPTC is very fortunate however to retain Clare as a consultant and as such, she will continue  to  offer support to the Centre and to Pacific Laboratories  in terms of  guidance and expertise in such areas as Laboratory Quality Management and REQA.

Apart from PPTC responsibilities, Clare continues to hold the position of  Point of Care Testing Coordinator at Wellington Hospital, New Zealand.

 Contact Us:

Phone and E-Mail:     Telephone (64) (4) 389 6294,


Postal Address  :         PO Box 7013,  Wellington 6242 , New Zealand                                                       

2015-2016 POLHN PPTC Diploma in Medical Laboratory Science Programme – Applications Open

The PPTC in conjunction with POLHN is now accepting applications for PPTC POLHN Diploma in Medical Laboratory Science course starting in March 2015.

The modules on offer for the 2015 – 2016 Diploma Cycle will be:

2015 Outline:

  • Laboratory Technology               March – May 2015
  • Haematology                                 July – September 2015
  • Biochemistry                                 November 2015 – January 2016
  • Examination Part 1                       February/ March 2016

2016 Outline:

  •  Microbiology                                                           March – May 2016
  • Transfusion Science                                            July – September 2016
  • Laboratory Quality Management System        October – December 2016
  • Examination Part 2                                                   February/ March 2017

Please submit the POLHN APPLICATION FORM  (click to download)and your staff have until 31 December 2014 to submit your enrolment forms to POLHN office and PPTC –

Please encourage your eligible staff members to enrol for this Diploma programme, and ensure that your staff meet the Selection Criteria for POLHN Courses (click to download) requirements before applying.

Selection of students will take place on 30 January 2015, and the announcement will be made a week later to confirm if your application has been successful.

About the PPTC POLHN Diploma in Medical Laboratory Sciences Programme: 

Each module is divided into six sections to cover the basic principles and theory of that laboratory science with emphasis on the ‘how and why’ and the importance and relevance of accurate and reliable laboratory testing in both the initial diagnosis of disease and the monitoring of treatment. At the end of each section there are a series of multi-choice questions which must be completed and returned to the PPTC for marking. There is also an associated log book with each module (except Laboratory Technology and Laboratory Quality Management System) which the student must complete.

The content of each log book is based on routine procedures currently employed within each discipline and as each log book task is completed, signoff by the charge technician or head of department is required until the log book is fully completed. Each log book not only details the practical tasks to be carried out, but also contains a comprehensive theory section associated with each procedure and therefore acts as an information resource once completed by the student. Each log book will be returned to the student once completed and marked by the PPTC so as it can be used by the student as a reference.

On successful completion of each module which includes theory and practical requirements, successful students are awarded a certificate of achievement in the discipline studied.

There is an examination based assessment for the DipMLS programme as well. The examination will be divided into two parts, part 1 covering the theoretical contents from the first three modules namely Lab Technology, Haematology and Biochemistry and will be held at the end of the year 2013. Part 2 will cover the theoretical contents from the second year modules; Microbiology, Transfusion Science and Laboratory Quality Management Systems and will be held at the end of the year 2014. The examination booklets for part 1 and part 2 will be presented to students by the charge technician in the respective laboratories. The charge technicians will be expected to supervise these exams at the end of the respective year, and these examinations will be conducted in the strictest examination environment.

Students who successfully complete all six [6] modules, and the respective end of the year examinations will be awarded a Diploma in Medical Laboratory Science granted by the PPTC.

Unfortunately, in the past a number of enrolled technicians have registered for these courses but have not made any attempt to start these modules. Due to this, all participants will be closely monitored by our team and students may be involuntarily withdrawn from a module if there is no commitment shown in completing the assessments. Remember these courses are made available to laboratory technicians for their benefit free of charge from the WHO. These courses enable technicians to be updated in the current laboratory practises, and is for their benefit alone.

For further information please see: or Contact: Navin Karan, Programme Manager, PPTC, PO Box 7013 Wellington, New Zealand Telephone: 644389 6294 Fax: 64 4 389 6295 Email:

PPTC Wellington Based Training Courses for 2015

The Pacific Paramedical Training Centre is pleased to announce its Wellington based training courses for 2015.  

Please start your applications earlier prior to the start of the course as funders and international organisations who offer scholarships usually require 3 months to process applications.

For the Charge technicians, Laboratory Managers, Human Resource Teams and Programme Managers, please advise your laboratory staff accordingly and assist them in securing financial sponsorship to attend this course. Be aware that there are limited spaces available for these courses and it’s never (almost) too early to start the application process.

 PPTC 2015 Centre Based Training courses:

Venue: Pacific Paramedical Training Centre, Wellington Hospital Campus, New Zealand

 Haematology and Blood Cell Morphology - 2 March – 27 March 2015

 Health and Safety and Infectious Diseases - 13 April – 8 May 2015

 Laboratory Quality Management Systems – 25 May – 19 June 2015

 Biochemistry - 13 July – 7 August 2015

 Microbiology - 31 August – 25 September 2015

 Phlebotomy – 5 October – 23 October 2015

 Blood Transfusion Science – 2 November – 27 November 2015

Click to download 2015 Course Information Flyer and PPTC Course Application Form, or please refer to for detailed course information.

For further information contact: Navin Karan, Programme Manager, PPTC, PO Box 7013 Wellington, New Zealand Telephone: 6443896 Fax: 64 4 389 6295 Email: