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African Journal of Laboratory Medicine

On-line version ISSN 2225-2010
Print version ISSN 2225-2002


CASSIM, Naseem; COETZEE, Lindi M.  and  GLENCROSS, Deborah K.. Categorising specimen referral delays for CD4 testing: How inter-laboratory distances and travel times impact turn-around time across a national laboratory service in South Africa. Afr. J. Lab. Med. [online]. 2020, vol.9, n.1, pp.1-7. ISSN 2225-2010.

BACKGROUND: The South African National Health Laboratory Service provides laboratory services for public sector health facilities, utilising a tiered laboratory model to refer samples for CD4 testing from 255 source laboratories into 43 testing laboratories. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to determine the impact of distance on inter-laboratory referral time for public sector testing in South Africa in 2018. METHODS: A retrospective cross-sectional study design analysed CD4 testing inter-laboratory turn-around time (TAT) data for 2018, that is laboratory-to-laboratory TAT from registration at the source to referral receipt at the testing laboratory. Google Maps was used to calculate inter-laboratory distances and travel times. Distances were categorised into four buckets, with the median and 75th percentile reported. Wilcoxon scores were used to assess significant differences in laboratory-to-laboratory TAT across the four distance categories RESULTS: CD4 referrals from off-site source laboratories comprised 49% (n = 1 390 510) of national reporting. A positively skewed distribution of laboratory-to-laboratory TAT was noted, with a median travel time of 11 h (interquartile range: 7-17), within the stipulated 12 h target. Inter-laboratory distance categories of less than 100 km, 101-200 km, 201-300 km and more than 300 km (p < 0.0001) had 75th percentiles of 8 h, 17 h, 14 h and 27 h. CONCLUSION: Variability in inter-laboratory TAT was noted for all inter-laboratory distances, especially those exceeding 300 km. The correlation between distance and laboratory-to-laboratory TAT suggests that interventions are required for distant laboratories.

Keywords : HIV; cluster of differentiation 4; CD4; immune status; inter-laboratory referral; distance; travel time.

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