L – R: Prof. Nafiu Amidu (President) from Ghana; Dr. (Mrs) Haddy Bah (Treasurer) from Gambia; Dr. Godswill Okara (Registrar) Nigeria; Dr. Youan Pascal (Asst. Registrar) Côte d’Ivoire & Mr. Adjodi Anabadedi (Asst Treasurer) from Togo.
By Hassan Zaggi
With the emergence of different types of both communicable and Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) globally, including Lassa fever, cancers, Ebola, Covid-19 and many others, especially in the West African region, the need for sophisticated and well trained medical laboratory scientists at the highest level becomes a necessity.
This is to enable them have the needed knowledge and competence to confront and provide the right diagnostic outputs for all forms of emerging diseases in the region.
It is also worth noting that without the right quality and quantity of medical laboratory science practitioners, the much talked about attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) can never succeed in the West African region.
Therefore, the relevance of medical laboratory science practice cannot be overemphasized.
In fact, it is not an over statement to say that medical laboratory science practice is the corner stone of medical practice the world over.
Hence, the recent induction of the 216 Foundation Fellows of the West African Postgraduate College of Medical Laboratory Science (WAPCMLS), during their recently concluded congress in Lagos, Nigeria, is seen as a step in the right direction by many experts in the health sector.
The newly inducted fellows were drawn from Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Togo, The Gambia and Cameroon.
The Foundation Fellows spread across the different specialties and sub-disciplines of medical laboratory science profession are grouped in faculties.
The College also conducted elections into different offices.
A renowned Nigerian medical laboratory scientist, Dr. Godswill Okara, was elected the Registrar/Secretary General of the West African Postgraduate College of Medical Laboratory Science.
Other officials include Professor Nafiu Amidu, President (Ghana); Dr. (Mrs) Haddy Bah, Treasurer (The Gambia); Dr. Youan Gouanda Pascal, Assistant Registrar (Cote d’Ivoire); Mr. Adjodi Anabadedi, Assistant Treasurer (Togo); Representative of the DG WAHO, Council Member and Chairmen of Country Chapters were elected as Ex-Officio Members/Vice Presidents
It would be recalled that on June 10, 2010, in Nairobi, Kenya, the delegates from West Africa at the 29th World Congress of the International Federation of Biomedical Laboratory Science (IFBLS) met and agreed to form a platform for training and developing the much-needed specialist laboratory manpower for enhanced and effective health healthcare service and diagnostic capacity in the sub-region.
The name, West African Postgraduate College of Medical Laboratory Science (WAPCMLS), was adopted by the delegates in attendance at the meeting. The proposal to establish the College was enthusiastically received by all in attendance at the meeting, and it was tagged: The Nairobi Initiative. Delegates from almost all the countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were in attendance.
The College which will have its headquarters in Nigeria is established to foster and promote collaboration, cooperation and synergy with other stakeholders in the healthcare sector for effective and efficient health service delivery and health research outcome in the region for the benefit of its residents and the global community.
Reiterating the relevance of well-trained medical laboratory scientists for the development of the West African region, Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, while declaring the congress open said: “The importance of accurate and reliable laboratory diagnosis in the prevention and control of diseases cannot be over-emphasized.
“Medical laboratory services are a vital component of a quality healthcare system and continues to play a vital role in disease prevention, detection, surveillance and patient management.
“It provides information and services that contribute to maximizing effective delivery of care in today’s complex healthcare system by assuring that the correct test is performed on the right person, at the right time, producing accurate test results that enable care providers to make the right diagnostic and therapeutic decisions for better outcomes for patients.
“Thus, the medical laboratory professional is an indispensable partner in providing and ensuring optimal health care.
“The establishment of the West African Postgraduate College of Medical Laboratory Science is a step in the right direction and I commend the West African Health Organization (WAHO) for her foresight in facilitating the take-off of this important College and harmonizing the development of medical laboratory human resources across the ECOWAS region and Cameroon.
“As this new cadre of laboratory professionals is birthed in the country, I am expecting it will not only ensure availability of highly skilled professionals, but I also expect them to ensure the laboratory environment is peaceful.”
On his part, explaining the crucial role of medical laboratory scientists to the health and well-being of the human race, the Director General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), Professor Stanley Okolo, in a keynote address, noted that despite the fact that medical laboratory scientists spend less time with patients than physicians and nurses, they still remain crucial to the health of the patient.
“As vital members of the healthcare team, they play a critical role in collecting the information needed to give the best care to an ill or injured patient. They find great satisfaction in their work, knowing that they are helping others and are saving lives.
“Nigeria and other African countries should intensify efforts to make medical laboratory services accessible through public-funded health insurance schemes, as the countries move towards universal coverage of health services.
“With a strong political will, the combination of diagnostic capacity, access to essential healthcare services will become available in low and middle-income countries like ours,” Prof. Okolo stressed.
It is however, worrisome to note that when diagnostics are not acknowledged as an essential component of the healthcare system, they get little attention, budget, and support for implementation.
It is also clear that if tests are not explicitly listed in national health plans or benefits packages, there is no mechanism for procurement, supply, and reimbursement.
The harsh consequences of underinvestment in diagnostics and laboratories are clear and cannot be undermined.
It is therefore pertinent to call on development partners to work closely with governments of ECOWAS, especially, the West African Postgraduate College of Medical Laboratory Science to carry out researches on how to arrest the continuous emergence of both infectious and neglected tropical diseases like Corona virus, cancers, Lassa fever, Ebola in order to reduce the case fatality rate of the diseases in the region.
It is therefore, necessary to reiterate that medical laboratory scientists need the support of all and sundry to make the work of other health practitioners easier.
Considering that the headquarters of the Post Graduate College will be domicile in Nigeria, it is pertinent to call on the Nigerian government to give the College all the needed support for it to commence operation. Provision of office space and land for the building of its permanent site will not be a bad idea.