Ethiopia has achieved rapid expansion of TB microscopic centers for acid fast bacilli (AFB). However, external quality assurance (EQA) services were, until recently, limited to few regional and sub-regional laboratories. In this paper, we describe the decentralization experience and the result of EQA using random blinded rechecking. We decentralized sputum smear AFB EQA from 4 regional laboratories (RRLs) to 82 EQA centers and enrolled 956 health facilities (HFs) in EQA schemes. From 2012 to 2014 (Phase I), the false positivity rate declined from 0.6% to 0.2% and false negativity fell from as high as 7.6% to 1.6% in supported HFs. In HFs that joined in Phase II, FN rates ranged from 5.6% to 7.3%. The proportion of HFs without errors increased from 77.9% to 90.5% in Phase I HFs and from 82.9% to 86.9% in Phase II HFs. Overall sensitivity and specificity were 95.0% and 99.7%, respectively. Positive predictive and negative predictive values were 93.3% and 99.7%, respectively. Decentralizing blinded rechecking of sputum smear microscopy is feasible in low-income settings. While a comprehensive laboratory improvement strategy enhanced the quality of microscopy, laboratory professionals' capacity in slide reading and smear quality requires continued support.

The diagnosis of malaria in clinical laboratories mainly depends on blood smear microscopy, and this technique remains the most widely used in Ethiopia. Despite the importance of blood smear microscopy for patients’ diagnosis and treatment, little effort has been made to precisely determine and identify sources of error in malaria smear microscopic diagnosis and quantification of parasitaemia. The main objective of the present study was to assess the laboratory practices of health care laboratories carrying out blood films microscopy. A cross-sectional study was conducted in northwestern Ethiopia involving 29 health care institutes. A structured and pretested questionnaire was used to collect relevant information on the physical conditions, laboratory logistics, and laboratory practices carrying out blood smear microscopy. In most of the health care laboratories studied, availability of laboratory logistics and technical practices for malaria microscopy were found to be below the standard set by World Health Organization. Improving logistics access for malaria microscopy at all level of health care is important to increase accuracy of diagnosis and quantification of malaria parasites. Moreover, continued training and regular supervision of the staff and implementation of quality control program in the area are also crucial.

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