The NCCTRC medical science facility is undergoing some remarkable changes as the organisation implements innovative new strategies to strengthen its deployable capability.
Since Medical Scientist Leanne Jones commenced in her role with the Pharmacy and Laboratory team, she has been working towards enhancing and developing NCCTRC and AUSMAT’s lab capability, both within headquarters and as a mobile facility for deployment.
“The lab is far more than a series of instruments and medical technology, in this role I have had to address the ethics, consider how we update policies and protocol, and consider future global challenges we may face and how we prepare for the unknown through a lab lens,” she said.
Ms Jones said she is reviewing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergency Medical Team (EMT) Minimum Standard and WHO Rapid Response Mobile Laboratory (RRML) Classification Guidance, ensuring NCCTRC and AUSMAT’s laboratory capability meets, if not exceeds, expectations.
“I aim to stay in tune with domestic concerns regarding communicable and non-communicable diseases and how our medical science facility can best respond, as well as international trends to enhance our preparedness to respond,”
“I want to ensure our AUSMAT personnel, no matter a nurse, doctor or lab technician, has the ability to understand and comfortably use the most up–to-date and relevant equipment on site, not only for patient health but also for data collection.”
A key part of Ms Jones’s role is ensuring AUSMAT’s deployable laboratory is light-weight, transportable, easy to use and fit for purpose in the event an EMT is deployed to assist a neighbouring nation.
Ms Jones explained the necessity for a deployable laboratory capability as an initiative which would ensure NCCTRC ‘”stays prepared for potential future epidemics”.
“To address the increasing risk of infectious disease outbreaks and health emergencies, we need to work in the present to reinforce the integration of public health/infectious diseases outbreak response capacity in Australia,” she said.
“How we do this is still being investigated and integrated into our operations, however strengthening laboratory capability and capacity along with enhancing field deployable technical assistance, disease surveillance and data analysis is certainly a great starting point. Such an approach will provide greater capacity to inform evidence for outbreak and vector control, sanitation, and hygiene practice.”
The NCCTRC have ample experience in responding to acute and sub-acute aspects on deployment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCCTRC supported the deployment of an integrated public health surge response alongside AUSMAT response efforts nationally, as well as regions across the Indo-Pacific.
In 2022, the NCCTRC demonstrated a model of mobile laboratory support at the Garma festival in Northeast Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, which provided real-time infectious disease and laboratory support to the deployed specialist team and temporary quarantine facility for event participants, supporting safe delivery of the event through monitoring of epidemic transmission.
Ms Jones said she is honoured and excited to be at the helm of NCCTRC’s laboratory capability at a time of immense change.
“The lab sector is evolving at the moment, as a deployable unit we are responding to public health and sudden-onset disasters more often and our scope is changing. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in increasing our medical science capability.”