By Sola Ogundipe
THE expectation ofÂ a well regulated fertility treatment industry that caters for the wellbeing of Nigerians may not come to pass in the country in the near future, except the apparent lack of political will and commitment to the issue is adequately tackled by those concerned.
Managing Director, The Bridge Cinic, Lagos, Dr. RichardsonÂ Ajayi said nothing could be done about theÂ non-regulation of Assisted Reproduction Treatment in the country until the right things were in place.
Ajayi who spoke in Lagos shortly after the recertification audit of the Bridge Clinic, argued that there is only one standard of healthcare everywhere in the world.Â In his opinion, the non-regulation of the industry was an issue that must be tackled sooner than later.
â€œIt is absolutely essential that we have regulation, but the shame of it is that we are never going to have regulation here in Nigeria for a long time. For whatever reason, there is no political will to go in that direction because those who can make the changes are not interested.â€
Pointing out that there are currently different standards in operation, he said The Bridge Clinic decided to play at the highest level from the very beginning.
â€œWe decided to work as if we are regulated by the Human Fertilisation and E….Authority in the UK. One of the stipulations of the HFEA is that any clinic that runs IVF must have a quality management system, so we implemented such a system. Following our recertification audit two weeks ago, there were recommendations about what we need to do.
For instance, we were told we have to use only disposable equipment because of the infection risk associated with sterilisation. It is one of the standards that is being pushed in Europe and we know that sterilisation procedures must be of such a high standard to be acceptable that it is better to just use disposables and this is what we are moving towards.â€
He affirmed that by April this year, the sterilising process would have been totally replaced by the new disposable system. â€œThese recommendations are going to cost us about N25 million, but they are necessary improvements, even if they are not going to be seen on the outside. They are internal.â€
Citing an example, he described the apparently simple task of writing a patient’s name on a dish with a pen. â€œSome of these pens have a special constituent called volatile organic compounds which may have detrimental effect on the embryos. So now we have to go and buy a special pen that is only available in Europe at more than 30 times the cost of a normal pen. These are the standards we are setting for ourselves and they are the highest.
â€œAs a result, they make us more expensive than every other person doing IVF. the reasoning is thatÂ if we have chosen these as our standards, it is difficult for others who have not decided to go down this road to say let us go and regulate together.â€
Going down memory lane , re recalled: â€œBecause of my heritage, I worked in the UK for a number of years and I came back to Nigeria with a vision of reproducing what I’ve learnt, and when I go back to see my colleagues in the UK I need to be able to tell them this is what I am doing. Not that I am compromising to manage in Nigeria.
â€œThe standards we set for ourselves are very high, but I believe that should be the reference. That is the standard the rest of the world utilises and we shouldn’t have a Nigerian version. We should have the same as the rest of the world. For example, the laboratories that we use are standard. We were part of the group that set up PathCare which is the only ISO 1009Â in the country so that we can assure the quality of care we give our patients. In the UK, America or South Africa, you cannot run a laboratory unless you have this certification. So it is the same standard.
â€œWith our vision to be the reference point in healthcare delivery because of our philosophy of benchmarking with international standards,Â I believe that with time there will be the realisation from the public. That assurance level is quality. Once that realisation is there, the change will occur. I think it has started to occur because there is anow an association for quality in healthcare. With that kind of change, we can move in the right direction.