Cuba’s Artemisa Bacteriological Laboratory ‘Does Not Comply With Any Biosafety Standard’
The deterioration of the facilities of the José Suárez Blanco Microbiology Laboratory, in Artemisa, Cuba, and the shortage of medical materials make it difficult to diagnose infectious diseases in the province. A publication of the official newspaper El Artemiseño presents a string of misfortunes since the creation of the center, which has not worked at its maximum capacity in almost five decades of operations.
The laboratory, for example, ran out of nasal swabs when it was most required, due to the increase in Covid-19 infections in 2020, recalled its director, Adilis Palacios Cristi. Although the shortage of cotton swabs affects the entire Cuban Public Health system, the official acknowledged that it is more serious in this center, because it is in charge of this type of test in the province.
This lack led it to concentrate it services on fertility, pregnancy and child exams. “For the rest of the population, we process urine cultures, fecal samples, and analyze water and food, acute diarrheal diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, sanitary surveillance, tuberculosis, and syphilis.”
The creation of the laboratory dates back to 1967, when it was a meeting place for doctors from Artemisa. That year it was declared a microbiology laboratory to deal with infectious diseases in the municipality, but its beginnings were marked by abandonment and the precariousness of supply. In 2004, it had to close and was reopened four years later after completing repairs in the sterilization and scrubbing area.
“It did not meet any biosafety standard” due to the poor state of the infrastructure, acknowledged Dr. Yasmín Hernández Carpio, who was in charge of the institution for 19 years. Under her administration, the story continues, a proposal was presented to the municipal and provincial governments to improve the conditions of the property, but it was not approved because “the idea of ??installing the provincial microbiology laboratory in Mariel and San Antonio de los Baños prevailed.”
Those plans did not prosper and currently the laboratory covers the municipalities of Artemisa, Caimito, Guanajay and Mariel, including the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM).
The Maintenance Company carried out partial repairs in the waterproofing of the roof and painting in 2019, but these were not enough to contain the leaks that affect the Tuberculosis Department and a hermetically closed room, which since 2013 has had a hole in the wall where the air conditioning was removed.
Carlos Milanés Segura, director of the Municipal Hygiene and Microbiology Unit, confirmed to the provincial newspaper that the works were not completed in 2019 due to the lack of waterproofing resin, and the tanks were not changed due to lack of pipes. The doctor added that, for this year, the management of materials and the repair of a turbine that has been damaged for years is already planned.
Humidity and lack of ventilation make disease analysis difficult. In addition, “there is no adequate flow diagram for the cultivation of molds and yeasts in the food area, despite having an incubator,” added Hernández Carpio.
Another factor that adds to the deficiencies of the laboratory is that the water stored in two tanks is not enough to install a still, so they must request support from the hemodialysis plant of the Ciro Redondo García hospital, located in the capital of the province.
Similarly, Pedro Sánchez Machado, head of the Microbiology section in Artemisa, complained that they are the only territory without a laboratory of this type. He added that thanks to the financial support of a French organization, whose name he did not reveal, this year they have the necessary money to purchase equipment for sanitary analysis of water and food, which will go to the Mariel bacteriological laboratory, which has a larger capacity, by decision of the Ministry of Public Health