Government officials and laboratory scientists urge citizens to ‘patronize only approved medical laboratory facilities and demand quality services’
In Nigeria, government officials and medical laboratory scientists are speaking out about the poor state of medical diagnoses across the country despite their efforts to upgrade accreditation and professionalism of the clinical laboratories that operate in Nigeria.
The widespread call for all medical laboratories to operate according to international standards reflects recognition by patients that they are not getting quality care in the African nation’s clinical laboratories. That is because most operate with obsolete medical laboratory equipment, untrained laboratory staff, and little regulation or government oversight.
“Healthcare providers in developing countries, like ours, lack basic diagnostic tools that would have been taken for granted in developed countries,” declared Olusola Akinniyi, M.B.B.S., Managing Director/CEO of Union Diagnostic and Clinical Services Plc of Nigeria. “In order to achieve the best possible medical outcome, advanced diagnostic examinations need to be applied to diagnose the patient’s underlying health problems precisely.”
Supreme News Nigeria reported Akinniyi’s remarks at a diagnostic awareness forum organized by Initiative for Medical Awareness in Lagos state, Nigeria.
Lack of Clinical Laboratory Equipment Drives Misdiagnoses
It is estimated that more than 10,000 medical laboratories operate in Nigeria. However, less than one-third are registered with the national database maintained by the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN).
In recent years, health officials have attempted with limited success to upgrade the nation’s diagnostics industry. Within Nigeria, there is recognition that many misdiagnoses happen because physicians and patients frequently lack access to a reliable and high-quality clinical laboratory.
The MLSCN, which recently opened a headquarters/laboratories complex in Abuja, has pledged to improve diagnoses by ensuring that medical laboratories in the country operate to international standards. Daily Trust reporter Ruby Leo wrote that MLSCN’s Registrar/Chief Executive Officer Anthony Emeribe is calling on Nigerians to patronize only approved medical laboratory facilities.
“We must all accept responsibility for our health and this includes demanding as of right, that the facility to which we are submitting ourselves is duly approved by the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, that it is manned by the right caliber of personnel, and that it has the quality equipment, regents, kits, chemicals and consumables otherwise known as in-vitro diagnostics,” stated Leo in the Daily Trust article.
Godswill Okara, M.D. is the former President of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN). He says his organization also is working to educate the public not to use the many unlicensed laboratories that operate throughout the country.
“There is a lawlessness in the health sector where people will open a lab and call it computer lab and do all manner of test to extort money from the people,” he told the Leadership newspaper.
Increased Funding Needed to Stem Medical Tourism to U.S.
Yet Emeribe believes widespread improvements cannot be made unless the MLSCN receives more government support and financial backing for its oversight work. Until then, he says many Nigerians will continue to travel to the United States and other developed nations for access to reliable and high-quality clinical laboratories that meet international standards in operation and management.
“If funding could be improved, and the Ministry of Health further supports our efforts towards the eradication of quackery and fake or substandard medical laboratory products, there is no doubt that we will record more success in our programs for the good of our citizens who continue to travel abroad in search of reliable medical diagnostics,” Emeribe said in a This Day article.
The MLSCN was established in 2003 and is broadly charged with regulating clinical laboratory services in Nigeria through registration and licensing of medical laboratories as well as practitioners and the certification of lab test kits and reagents. The council is empowered to regulate the training of medical laboratory scientists, technicians, and assistants.
According to the Guardian News, Nigeria has taken other steps to improve the poor state of medical diagnosis across the federation such as implementing the Strengthening Laboratory Management Towards Accreditation program, which aims to prepare laboratories for international accreditation.
Privately-funded Afriglobal Medicare Limited (AML) has raised standards with the opening of its diagnostic center in Ikeja, Lagos, offering a full range of pathology and radiology services using GE and Siemens equipment imported from France and Switzerland.
However, government officials acknowledge work remains to be done. Lagos State Special Adviser on Public Health Yewande Olaseni Animashaun-Adeshina, M.D., describes the healthcare sector in Nigeria as “currently on life support.” Health News Nigeria reports that Adeshina is backing “a private-public partnership model to revive the sector, and provide quality healthcare Nigerians deserve.”
“Most machines today are obsolete, and maintenance and repairs are challenging because of finance. So most operators of diagnostic services make do with what they have. And the idea of ‘I must produce results at all times’ makes them churn out deficient results. And ultimately, the patient pays disastrous sacrifice,” Momoh told The Guardian News.
—Andrea Downing Peck