By Chioma Obinna
Worried about the rate of misdiagnosis and poor detection of infectious diseases across the West African region, the West African Health Organisation, WAHO, is currently building the capacity of medical laboratory professionals in the region to ensure correct diagnosis as one of the fundamental principles of healthcare.
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The project was part of strategies to ensure that laboratory systems are improved in the 15 ECOWAS countries as well as ensuring the countries have effective and accredited laboratories across the region by 2021″.
At a five -day Laboratory Mentorship and Coaching Training Workshop for Medical Laboratory Professionals in ECOWAS member countries, held in Lagos, the Programme Officer of Region Wide Laboratory Services, for WAHO, Abdulrahaaman Sow explained that the objective was to provide them with all the skills and competence to improve the health system in the region.
He said WAHO has established a regional programme for accreditation of laboratories from the 15 countries of ECOWAS and trained 24 mentors from the 15 countries of ECOWAS for onward cascading the training to different levels in their countries.
“If we have good laboratories, we can detect very rapidly epidemic prone diseases and we can put in place some strategies to control those epidemics and also prevent them.”
Other objectives of the training he listed include; providing participants with knowledge and skills on the requirements of ISO standards (ISO 15189: 2012 and ISO 90001:2015), strengthen national and regional capacities to improve medical laboratory quality systems among others.
Speaking, the State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi who noted that a doctor or a healthcare provider was dependent on diagnostic capabilities of the environment to make correct diagnosis and also based on the direct diagnosis to give the correct treatment.
Abayomi said: “WAHO is ensuring that all our laboratories go through the process of accreditation and these coaches and mentors that they have trained can go back to their respective institutions and fast track the process of acquiring an accreditation.
“What we have done in the last five days was to promote the use of laboratories, ensure the results that are coming out from the laboratories are accurate. What we call quality management and for us to do that, we need to go through a process of accreditation.
There are standards that laboratories must utilize. You can’t just set up your laboratory and start pushing out results. You have to meet certain very strict criteria which are set by international bodies like the WHO, to make sure that what you release from the laboratory is not only correct but you can guarantee it and once you are doing that, then you know that, you are giving out a good result.”
One of the participants who is also the Deputy Director in the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Olajumoke Babatunde, said most of the participants from Nigeria were not versatile with the requirements of the ISO standards in respect to accreditation of their labs but the training has sharpened their knowledge.
Noting that the West African Region has suffered different outbreaks including Ebola, she said the training would benefit the country in terms of detecting these diseases and nipping them in the bud.
Speaking, Senior Team Leader, Prolab, a project to support WAHO for strengthening epidemiological surveillance and laboratory systems in ECOWAS, Dr Olivier Manigart explained that the project was a 10-million-euro project that covers specifically more of four countries including Burkina Faso, Niger, Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria.
“The backbone of our project is to train people on the path to the ISO 15189 accreditation. We have trained dozens of people in the 15 ECOWAS country and we are going to train some more in French and Portuguese and English. We are training them specifically on transport of samples, data management, biomedical specimen risk management and also on bio security which is crucial problem for Nigeria as well as for all the ECOWAS regions.”