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For 10 years, the Israel Laboratory Accreditation Authority has been helping labs from a variety of fields increase the quality of their work to international standards - but, director-general Dr. Orna Dreazen said on Monday, there are still many labs which are not functioning at a high level.
An event to celebrate the anniversary at Jerusalem's Beit Shmuel attracted over 100 senior representatives of government and commercial organizations whose lab work is accredited by the authority, which was established a decade ago by order of the High Court of Justice when the Industry and Trade Ministry was sued for arbitrarily refusing to recognize two private labs.
Since then, the ILAA has taken charge of assuring the competence and quality of labs from fields as diverse as construction and agriculture to the military and the police. Its primary focus is the competence of the measurements obtained in these labs.
"People think of themselves as microbiologists, for example, but even though they spend all their time measuring, they don't consider themselves 'measurers,'" said Dreazen.
The authority, located in Ramat Gan and headed by Dreazen since 2000, has accredited 110 organizations and businesses, from Sheba Medical Center to Israel Aircraft Industries, many of them having numerous labs. The authority also offers courses in measurement to lab workers in a gamut of fields, though no degree in the discipline is available in Israel.
She complained to The Jerusalem Post just before the event that the Health Ministry gives approval to hospital labs without checking their accreditation or supervising them. Only one of the four public health funds meets the authority's standards, she said, and it was only after a great struggle that she got the ministry's four public health labs to pass the accreditation process.
Authority chairman Prof. Mordechai Shani, a former Health Ministry and Sheba director-general, said that 400 different technologies are now included in its accreditation process.
"The authority received OECD recognition in 2003 and is recognized internationally," he said. "As a result, large sums are being brought here for research."
Raising lab standards, he added, also improves the quality of government decisions based on lab findings.
He said he was shocked as a health administrator in the 1980s when the general view was that labs don't have to be standardized and checked; only when "bad apples" were discovered should they be corrected. "It is clear that without regulation, control and standardization, you can't offer high quality service in all fields."
Grisha Deitsch, the Industry and Trade Ministry official in charge of standards, said that those in charge of quality in public and private institutions are "an elite," undergoing extensive training. Uzi Mordechai, a member of the authority's council from the Industrialists' Association, called on more government branches to cooperate and undergo accreditation.
The outgoing head of the Police Criminal Identification Department, Azi Zadok, said that in his department, which serves the police and other security agencies, being objective and professional is a matter of life and death. He said that during the process of accreditation the department improved both its organization and the quality of its work.
Zadok added that courts and Justice Ministry offices who ask experts for their opinions increasingly ask whether they were accredited and where. "This will become more common, especially with DNA tests that involve sensitive issues."
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