In the laboratory of the district hospital in Muang Mok
In the district hospital in Muang Mok, simple blood, urine and chemical tests are carried out by trained laboratory assistants.

Beatrice Holliger, former head laboratory technician in haematology at KSW, has been traveling to Laos regularly since 2010 as part of the Hospital Partnership Phonsavan – Cantonal Hospital Winterthur. She has worked persistently to improve the quality of laboratory tests, particularly hematology tests, in several hospitals. After a two-year break due to the pandemic, she returned to the provincial hospital in Phonsavan in January 2023 and also visited several district hospitals. She was welcomed with open arms and was delighted to find that her many years of efforts had fallen on fertile ground.

Laboratory technician training at the provincial hospital in Phonsavan
Training of laboratory technicians from the district hospitals in the laboratory of the provincial hospital: The eagerness to learn is huge.

What were the main reasons for this success?

Over thirteen years, Bea Holliger has gained recognition and trust with patience, empathy and skill and has established a circle of specialists in the laboratory in Phonsavan that is constantly evolving. Several laboratory assistants have been sent to Vientiane or Thailand for further training or professional development, financed by the association Spitalpartnerschaft Phonsavan – Kantonsspital Winterthur.  

The laboratories in the province are connected to each other via a WhatsApp chat. This allows them to contact the head lab technician at the provincial hospital directly and request support in the event of problems with the equipment or specific technical questions.

Laotian lab technicians have been receiving English lessons since the beginning. Today, Bea Holliger can communicate with the majority of them in English. If necessary, drawings of blood counts, for example, are used to explain things.

She deliberately advocated the purchase of the same type of device for all laboratories. The equipment must be robust and easy to use. The laboratory staff at the district hospitals receive regular training, including from the laboratory technicians in Phonsavan. If possible, defective equipment is repaired by the service technician in Phonsavan.

Laboratory technician training at the provincial hospital in Phonsavan
Everyone wants to see an abnormal blood count under the microscope.

There is still a lot to do

In order to obtain reliable laboratory results, quality control using commercially available standard samples is essential. The authorities still have little insight into the necessity of these expenses, and in the current economic crisis they are hardly achievable. For this reason, SLHP is covering the costs of calibration samples for the foreseeable future.

Doctors still have little knowledge of the importance of laboratory tests, e.g. blood count to diagnose anemia, or how to interpret the results. Further training is needed here, which should start during training – a long way to go.

Laboratory technician training at the provincial hospital in Phonsavan
Regular maintenance and quality control is a prerequisite for good laboratory results. Technicians receive training for this.