Nigeria’s reliance on foreign partners for laboratories bane of poor COVID testing

April 23, 2020

Pathologists in Nigeria have linked Nigeria’s reliance on foreign partners for its laboratories to the slow scaling up of laboratory  services for COVID-19 testing in the country.

President, College of Nigerian Pathologists (CNP), Professor Phillip Olatunji, spoke at a press conference in Abeokuta to announce a donation of N2 million to the FGN COVID-19 welfare support fund.

Professor Olatunji said the scale-up of these laboratories is so slow in spite of the claim of several foreign implementing partners to have been ‘strengthening’ Nigeria’s laboratories for the last 15 years.

He said 13 testing laboratories for the disease by NCDC was still inadequate for a country with almost 200 million people, spanning 1,500 kilometres from north to south and a poor sample transport system.

The CNP president decried insufficient provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the country to protect the health personnel and the huge hike in the price of face masks (medical and n95), gloves and aprons in the country.

Professor Olatunji said that the Federal Government had no strategic inventory for PPE and the realities of Nigeria’s impoverished and neglected health system now that the world has been locked down is a call for the government to prioritise healthcare  in the country and ensure all Nigerians have access to good healthcare.

“Had this epidemic taken the dimension it is taking in western countries, we can imagine how many ‘big shots’ it would have taken away, governors and those in the Presidency.

“Our prayer is that we take this golden opportunity to reset our button and prioritise healthcare. No country can be truly developed if its healthcare system is underdeveloped. This will not be the last pandemic, another will come.

“We must be prepared, our public health infrastructure, our laboratories and our healthcare workforce must be rebuilt so that the weakest among us has access to good healthcare.”

Professor Olatunji declared that although the COVID-19 infection in Nigeria so far has remained relatively mild to moderate, and less than 20 deaths so far, Nigeria must not get complacent but prepare for the inevitable future epidemic or pandemic.

While appreciating NCDC’s professionalism in the control of the outbreak, the don decried the non-involvement of pathologists and medical laboratory scientists in many state government responses to the pandemic to ensure they have credible and authenticated laboratory results.

He expressed displeasure at the level of ignorance about  the healthcare system in the very high echelon of governance and their understanding of the severity of the pandemic and the danger it poses to healthcare workers.

He said policymakers were deliberately side-lining Nigeria’s well-trained professionals and experts and making bogus announcements over the television and radio, in spite of the danger health professionals are exposed  to.

Professor Olatunji, however, warned against the adoption of  antibody-based rapid test kits for Coronavirus infection saying that available ones have not been validated to be sensitive and specific to this infection.

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