Albanian Doctors Fret over Private Control of Hospital Labs

"Let's say we need to manipulate DNA. This process requires space. I cannot do it in a 35 square metre room," Sulcebe, 66, told BIRN.

The concessionary company, Laboratory Network, said the room was sufficient for the state-of-the-art equipment needed for immunological testing. But an investigation by BIRN shows office space is not the only change under the deal that has health professionals worried.

Critics say the public-private partnership, or PPP, undertaken between Albania's Socialist government and Laboratory Network hampered Albania's efforts to ramp up COVID-19 testing and has cut the range of diagnostics offered to patients for free by the public health service.

Some doctors fear for the future of scientific research in the country. Sulcebe has refused to work for the private venture, effectively leaving the post of director of the immunology lab but remaining on hospital staff.

Testing troubles

Minister of Health Ogerta Manastirliu and head of Infectious Disease Department at Albania's Public Health Institute Silva Bino are visiting the second COVID-19 lab in Tirana main hospital. Photo: Ministry of Health. 

The PPP - the fourth such partnership in the Albanian healthcare sector - was signed by the government in April 2019 with the aim of improving the provision of lab results for doctors and patients across five university hospitals and 13 regional healthcare facilities.

The 10-year contract was won by a consortium of companies - Labopharma and AB Laboratory Solutions B.V, ultimately owned by Albanian businessman Janis Karathano, and the French company Exalab - that created Laboratory Network and pledged to invest almost 13 million euros to set up and operate the network of lab...

Continue reading on: