Communique issued by the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN) FCT Branch at the end of her annual scientific conference and AGM on the Theme: Advancing Medical Laboratory services amid health sector decay: A multidimensional approach and its implications, sub-themed: Expanding the frontiers of Medical Laboratory services in a dwindling economy: The place of Politics and capacity building, held at Radio House, Herbert Macaulay way, GARKI, Abuja FCT from 17 – 18 November, 2022
Arising from our annual scientific conference, comprehensive general meetings, and fulfilled scientific interactive sessions with leading authorities in various fields of Medicine and Medical Laboratory Science in Nigeria, and having deliberated on burning issues affecting Nigeria’s healthcare delivery, with informed bias on improving Medical Laboratory services and Health economics, we the membership of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN) FCT Branch, hereby make public the detailed summary of our discussions and resolutions thus:
1. That it is an undisputed fact that Medical laboratory service is a critical component of strong national health systems, yet it is often neglected in resource-limited countries like ours. This is more evident, in the fact that millions of people, particularly those in rural and under-served areas of the country, still do not have access to basic reliable diagnostic laboratory services, with many interconnected factors as the cause.
2. That part of the factors hindering optimal delivery of quality Laboratory services in Nigeria is funding. That irrespective of the promises of government to improve healthcare delivery, the annual national budget allocation to health sector still falls below the level stipulated by the 2002 Abuja Declaration, to which Nigeria is a signatory. The Abuja Declaration sets a benchmark for health sector budget allocation at 15% of total budgetary spending across African Union (AU) countries with the aim of improving healthcare in the region. It pains to note that the 2022 Health Expenditure was 4.3% and 5.75% proposed for 2023 (N1.17 trillion was allocated to the health sector out of the total of N20.5 trillion for the 2023 fiscal year).
3. That the Nigeria National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL) which was developed with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Fund; and which Federal government flagged off in May this year in a bid to ensure that Nigerians have unhindered access to quality, qualitative and affordable diagnostic services is yet to have effect on Laboratory services across boards in the country.
4. In view of the enormous demand for the funding in healthcare, government alone cannot shoulder the responsibility of good and quality health care provision given the dwindling economy culminating in an abysmally poor budgetary allocation to health sector. Therefore, it has become imperative to engage the private sector in financing of healthcare in Nigeria. Private sector health financing include Donor Funding as well as Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Some of the international health fund donors that we entreat to intervene in this regard include UNICEF, the World Bank, WHO, UNDP, UNAIDS, etc. Their help do come in various forms, namely: financial assistance (loans and grants), commodities (drugs, medical equipment), technical expertise, training, study tours and fellowship, research funding among others.
5. We also acknowledged, albeit sadly, that some Medical Laboratory Scientists have not made conscious efforts towards self development in the area of Quality Management System (QMS). With lack of QMS and ISO implementation, it will be hard to realize the goal of quality Laboratory services in Nigeria. A standardized and systematic format of laboratory staff training both locally (on site) and internationally (abroad) should be established and sustained. Training should be done in a step-wise manner. At the completion of training in each technique, the trainee must pass a competency assessment (CA) test before being allowed to perform a given test routinely in the laboratory and before proceeding to train on the next technique. Through international collaboration, some members of the staff should have further training in specialized techniques at selected reference centres abroad. This will help inculcate the QMS/ISO tenets in the mindset of Nigeria’s Laboratorians.
6. To survive the dwindling economy and expand the frontiers of medical laboratory services in a country like Nigeria with a fast-growing population, stakeholders should understand that there are opportunities in the challenges confronting lab practice in the country. Active political engagement of relevant stakeholders towards improved budgetary allocations to healthcare and judicious use of allocated resources will enhance improved medical service delivery to the people. We should consciously network with the ministry of health, international agencies, donor agencies and reference laboratories both locally and internationally to improve infrastructure, training, quality management system, laboratory information system etc. and implement same across our laboratories.
7. Advancing medical laboratory service is a dynamic, scientific, clinical and regulatory revolution that will engender expanded roles for non-physician healthcare professionals, especially the medical laboratory scientists. It will birth new era medical laboratory scientists that will help clinicians design and fine-tune care maps and treatment algorithms across every line of service whether it be inpatient, outpatient, or in a physician’s office. This development will allow the important issues of cost containment, access, quality, patient safety and appropriate utilization of Medical laboratory services to be more effectively addressed. New frontiers are beckoning – The future is quite promising
8. We used the opportunity to call on politicians and all aspirants to elective public offices across the political parties to commit to the declarations of this great conference towards ensuring that Nigeria attains her dream goals for quality Laboratory services for her teeming population. In this wise, a panelist session which was a rapporteur on the conference themes was held, and the Panelists were unanimous in agreement that the importance of 2023 general election to the overall welfare of Nigeria’s citizens cannot be overemphasized. They therefore urged Nigerians to vote only for the candidates with the well defined clear plans for the improvement of their healthcare needs pivoted in reproducible diagnostic services.
As we close the conference, and depart to various places of endeavors, we remind all our members to keep up with maintenance of strict professional ethics and observance of international best practices in their respective line of duties.
Dr. Okechukwu Chuks Ironkwe
Chairman, AMLSN, FCT Branch.
Anthony Benedict Ani
General Secretary, AMLSN, FCT Branch