By Ajuma Edwina Ogiri
The Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), has urged the federal government to invest in state, regional and national public health laboratories, to suit the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard, for routine medical surveillance of infectious diseases before their outbreaks.
The association also added that “if government had invested in the nation’s laboratories and made it comparable with the WHO’s laboratory in Senegal, where the blood samples were tested, getting results would have been faster, and national response against the virus would have been much easier.”
The president of the Association, Toyosi Raheem, who gave the advice recently in Abuja, said it was the failure of the Nigerian health system that compelled Nigerian government to take blood samples of persons with Monkey pox to Dakar, Senegal, for testing.
He said: “It breaks the heart to see how Nigeria has become a fertile ground for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, in the face of dwindling budgetary allocation to the health sector by government, and rabid inter-professional rivalry by key players in the health team.
“Unresolved discords among the nation’s health team are the reason the country had been faced with diverse health challenges.
“Monkey pox, a viral disease first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970, has been reported in as many as 11 states of the federation.
“Why can’t government listen to our continuous calls for establishments of state, regional and national public health laboratories for routine medical surveillance of infectious diseases before their embarrassing outbreaks? Government must be careful not to turn the health professionals in Nigeria to unarmed soldiers in a war zone.
“This development reverberates the sordid disgust on the lack of concrete action by government in curtailing the resurgence of haemorrhagic fevers, meningitis and other infectious diseases in the country in spite of several appeals by AMLSN and other stakeholders on the need to establish and equip public health laboratories, human vaccines laboratories as well as viable and integrated surveillance system.
“Why is it that most of our public health laboratories are no longer in existence, and where they exist, little or no attention is given to them for proper management and support with the needed resources?
“Why is it that despite abundant resources in Nigeria, the managers of our health sectors are not ashamed of sending blood and other samples collected from those suspected or infected victims of infectious diseases such as Monkey pox for testing to Senegal or less endowed countries and institutions to the consternation of our health system?”
The group also frowned at the adoption by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), proposal to set up a committee to produce a white paper on the Yayale Ahmed Committee.
The association said the committee’s report favours the pathologists, “who have become the favoured children of the two Ministers in the Federal Ministry Of Health, and their ally in the Ministry of Labour and Employment because they are medical doctors.
“The Ministers never saw the need to convince government to create enabling environments and opportunities for Medical Laboratory Scientists, Pharmacists and others in the health sector to strengthen the health system in Nigeria to a level that our country will face her health challenges head on, and avoid the incessant embarrassments from infectious diseases.
“Why can’t the Nigerian Government invite Medical Laboratory Scientists, and other health professionals to brainstorm on how to seriously address the ugly health situations in the country instead of this mono-professional preference for doctors in a multi-professional health sector?
“Any white paper on the controversial and rejected Yayale Ahmed Committee report skewed in favour of medical doctors at the expense of Medical Laboratory Science profession and others similarly and negatively affected in the report, would rather than solve the cancerous problem in the health sector only worsen it.”