By CHIOMA OBINNA
Irked by the poor laboratory result outcomes in Nigeria, no fewer than 24 Stepwise Laboratory Management Towards Accreditation, SLMTAs, have been trained by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR as part of strategies to strengthen and improve laboratory practice in the country as well as accelerate international accreditation.
The two-week training funded by IANPHI was in line with the WHO-AFRO’s Stepwise Laboratory Improvement Process Towards Accreditation, SLIPTA, initiative in accordance with its core functions of setting norms and standards and building institutional capacity.
The task–based, hands –on-training programme which was the first of its kind in West Africa was established by WHO-AFRO, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, the American Society of Clinical Pathology, ASCP and the Clinton Foundation to facilitate implementation of the SLIPTA initiative.
Addressing the 24 participants comprising Pathologists, Medical Laboratory Scientists and other scientists, the Director-General of NIMR, Prof Innocent Ujah explained that the country was on its path of high quality laboratory practice in various hospitals and clinics for the overall benefit of all patients.
Ujah who lamented that the issue of laboratory quality in Nigeria has remained a source of concern to many clinicians and scientists in the country disclosed that only two laboratories in Nigeria were International Standard Organisation, ISO certified.
He said the two week training has afforded the participants opportunity to learn to assess and accredit laboratories such that standards are maintained and improved upon.
According to him, “The programme aims to strengthen laboratory management, achieve immediate laboratory improvement and accelerate the preparedness toward accreditation.”
Explaining the importance of the training he said: Public health laboratories provide timely and reliable results primarily for the purpose of disease control and prevention. Clinical laboratories provide accurate diagnosis of on-going, recent or past infections for appropriate case management. Therefore, for results of laboratories to be credible and contribute positively to improving healthcare they need to implement laboratory quality standards.
To achieve this, health laboratories should be encouraged and supported to achieve international accreditation. “Accredited Medical Laboratories have capacity for well –functioning quality management systems, technical competence, timely and customer focused services that contribute effectively to patient care.
“They require leadership, time, attention, resources and continuous commitment to evaluation and improvement. Poor laboratory quality leads to misdiagnosis and mismanagement of clinical conditions, inability to conduct adequate surveillance.
“By 2011 there were 5,349 diagnostic laboratories operating in Nigeria, out of these, only two (NIMR Human Virology Laboratory and Pathcare Nigeria Limited laboratories) have ISO15189 accreditation while the 445 Nigerian Air Force Hospital Laboratory achieved the 5- star ranking under the WHO/AFRO SLMTA programme.”
Director of Research, Dr. Oni Idigbe lamented that only 348 laboratories were accredited in Africa and out of the number, 314 are in South Africa alone and the remaining 34 accredited were in other African countries.
“We decided to bring in master trainers from Kenya and Uganda because Nigeria does not have any and we are trying to look inward to see how we can build incountry capacity to ensure that we build a critical mass of trainers to assist in the accreditation processes.”