Poor Regulation and the Peril of Private Medical Laboratories in Nigeria

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OVERVIEW:
Over the years, private medical laboratories in Nigeria have grown marginally from  blue curtained kiosk to one shop laboratories and now, we can even boast of three nationally accredited Private Laboratory in Nigeria.
It is the first point of call for the employment and training of young MLS graduate and a bed of fulfillment and rest for retired civil servants. Arguably, it is the engine room of our dear profession and a pivot for sustainable growth and development of healthcare delivery in Nigeria.
Recent trend have shown the proliferation of new laboratories and a massive inflow of multinationals led by India, china and South African Investors. Is Nigeria suddenly a safe haven for investment or  Could this be the impending Armageddon as was once prophesied?……. It is coming and coming really fast.   
Following the recent recession, the private medical laboratories took the heat due to the difference in exchange rate and low patronage. At the same time however, these laboratories:
  • Were expected to provide quality laboratory service to all Nigerian’s been an essential component of healthcare delivery system in Nigeria.
  • With about eight thousand Private medical laboratories providing over 70,000 jobs, for laboratory scientist, MLT, MLA, drivers, lab managers, cleaners, biomedical engineers, reagent suppliers and importers etc.
  • Private Medical laboratories are a major contributor to IGRs of most states in Nigeria, through payment of tax and revenues.
  • Largest importer of laboratory consumables and equipment in Africa with annual import expenditure worth Millions of dollars. mostly from China, India, Japan, US etc. (largest consumers of laboratory consumables).

There is no doubt that medical laboratory practice and services remains the bedrock of healthcare delivery system in Nigeria, a gift of science well preserved by righteous few.  Unfortunately, prior to the announcement of the approval for Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN) inspection protocol by the Federal Ministry of Health(FMoH), this sector had remained unregulated for years.

Very sadly though, the regulator (MLSCN) had remained a toothless bulldog without the capacity or temerity to control, make and enforce rules. Striped of her powers to enforce rules, this giant was rendered incommunicado and broken by the powers that be. With its many liaison offices scattered all over the country laced with the curtain of idleness, uncertainties and redundancy.

Recently came the announcement of the release of the protocol for laboratory inspection masterfully brewed by the FMoH. However, while we bask in the euphoria of the said pronunciation and implementation process, we are not also quick to forget in a hurry the carnage and catastrophic consequence  of the ban on inspection/regulation of medical laboratories in Nigeria. Key players should be made to at least account or take responsibility for the level of rot and damage perpetrated against the profession.

The compounding effect of poor regulation is fast become a monster that if not checked may be more devastating than the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. It had gradually but consistently eroded our dignity as medical laboratory scientist in the private sector, and gradually made nonsense of the efforts and vision  of our founding fathers, going by the substantial evidence on ground.

Within the space of three years quacks had taken undue advantage of the helplessness of MLSCN, the industry witnessed a holocaust in the number of new laboratories established (over 8000) without recourse to registering with MLSCN, the spontaneous surge in the number of unregistered private laboratories led to unhealthy competition which kept the price of laboratory tests on a down turn despite increase in the running cost inflicted by the current recession.

The cumulative effect and danger posed by unreliable results, unethical handling of patients by quacks, have further punctuated the sanctity and integrity of the profession. The fault line resulting from the incapacitation of MLSCN led to:
  • Proliferation of private medical laboratories without meeting guidelines as set by MLSCN.  
  • Some state agencies headed by Doctors and aided by our very own colleagues have taken up responsibility of registering, licensing, accrediting and monitoring private medical laboratories in various states across the country.
  • The sector is also been bombarded with malicious policies targeted at strangulating the already suffocating private laboratories.
  • This trend is worrisome as MLSCN is not even aware of the number of laboratories presently operating in the various states of the Federation.
  • Apart from usurping the powers of MLSCN, some state agencies in a bid to increase their IGR  have placed embargo on the provision of certain types of laboratory services, example is the Food handler Testing. while also slamming the already almost bankrupt laboratories with all manner of penalties and charges.

The resultant effect include: Unemployment, unhealthy competition, job cuts, inability to meet up with salary payments, poor remuneration of MLS in private, capital flight, brain drain, sharp practices.
The regulation of reagent importation, production and supplies (un-taped goldmine) is become a tall dream and story for another day. While importers smile to the banks, thousands of young graduates roam the streets in search of jobs.
We grief at the level carnage that has besieged private medical laboratory practice and services in Nigeria.
We also call on the Ag registrar to declare a state of emergency on the sector, conduct a census of private laboratories in Nigeria, engage stockholders at all levels, sit up to its responsibility of regulation as enshrined of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
   constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria  
COMRADE IRONKWE O. C.
NATIONAL PRESIDENT PRIVATE MEDICAL LABORATORY PROPRIETORS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (PMLPAN)

DG. VANGUARD FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY (VAT)




Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the website but purely the authors.
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