Blames incessant Lassa fever occurrences on neglect of lab structures
By Chioma Obinna
As the battle against Lassa fever outbreak rages, the Nigerian government has been warned to watch out for the imminent outbreak of seasonal meningitis and cholera even as the development has been blamed on neglect and relegation of medical laboratory services structure and infrastructure across the federation.
Giving the warnings weekend in Lagos, the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, said the outbreak of Lassa fever has shown that much was not done or being done to revamp and revitalise Nigeria’s health system towards safeguarding the health of Nigerians from preventable diseases.
At the 14th Public Health Lecture Series of AMLSN and induction /investiture of Foundation fellows and 2020 Annual Congress of the West African Postgraduate College of Medical Laboratory Science, WAPCMLS, the National Publicity Secretary, AMLSN, Dr. Casmier Ifeanyi said five laboratories were grossly inadequate to cater for over 200 million people at risk of Lassa fever.
He said prior to the coming of Dr. Chikwe Ihekwazu as the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, only the Irrua Specialist hospital laboratory had a semblance of capacity for Lassa fever diagnosis in the country, even as he expressed worry over the inclusion of Nigeria as one of the 13 African countries on the WHO watch list for the COVID 19 epidemic.
“We are worried because not much is being done to build the capacity of the Nigerian health workforce especially the workforce in medical laboratories in the area of diagnosis and containment of the ravaging COVID-19 that has claimed the lives of several hundreds of people in China among others.”
Ifeanyi said a number of AMLSN members are currently on training abroad on the COVID-19 diagnosis testing device, noting that Nigeria’s health system, for want of preparedness is usually overwhelmed during outbreaks and that cholera and meningitis have claimed lives enmasse, hence the need for early response.
“These are vaccine-preventable but unfortunately, efforts at vaccine production locally by successive governments have failed and the country now depends on importation.
Those at the helm of affairs have continually sabotaged efforts at vaccine production locally because of the huge gain derivable from the vaccine importation and racketeering.
“We call for an urgent reform of the Nigerian health system which is currently with an index score of 19.9 out of a top score of 100.
The reform must be comprehensive and unbundle the present hegemonic structure of the health system into administrative, clinical governance and service leadership structures,” he noted.