TOPIC: The abuse of medical lab course

The abuse of medical lab course 3 years 2 months ago #1187

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he Rape of Medical Laboratory Science Profession: The Bane of Modern Healthcare Delivery in Nigeria

Rape according to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary is (1) “to force somebody to have sex with you when he/she does not want to, by threatening him or her using violence” or (2) “the act of destroying or spoiling an area in a way that seems unnecessary”. It is further defined by online dictionary to mean “to abuse an object in an extreme manner or to dominate in a contest”. By extension therefore a forceful encroachment into a profession or field of practice by non-professionals is tantamount To Molest.

A profession on the other hand is a type of occupation or job that needs special training or skill especially one that needs a high level of education. Every profession is established by law and there are rules and regulation guiding its practice.

Among the healthcare professions, one of the most abused is Medical Laboratory Science. In a hospital setting or any other healthcare institution the medical doctors are employed for clinical services, the nurses also are taken for their services but that cannot be said of the medical laboratory scientists. Other professionals are allowed to practice exclusively but for the medical laboratory, various persons are allowed to encroach into it. If it is not the doctor, it is the nurse or even ward-maids. Many other persons may be employed and designated “lab man”.

Therefore it is important for me to define the medical laboratory science profession, for us to know who the medical laboratory scientist is. It is “the practice involving the analysis of human and animal tissues, body fluids, excretions, production of biologicals, design and fabrication of
equipment for the purpose of medical laboratory diagnosis, treatment and research”… (Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria Act, 2003 No 11 Sect. 29). And a Medical Laboratory Scientist (the scientist) therefore, is a person who has undergone an approved educational training and obtained a degree in a council approved institution, is subsequently registered and duly licensed by the council to practice (Section 18). And the law further said; no person not fully registered shall be entitled to practice the profession.

Therefore the engagement of any person by self, government or institution is illegal and amounts to a rape of medical laboratory science profession.

The employment of quacks or non-professionals to manage and render medical laboratory services is a common place in Nigeria. It is done at various levels in both public and private sector.

The State and local governments are the most common culprits. They engage quacks and post them to work in our medical laboratories when there are many scientists either unemployed or under employed. This is worrisome because the supposed implementers and executors of the
laws and regulations of the land are the worst violators. If government (the leadership) does this, what do they expect of the private sector? This official employment of quacks appears to be directed particularly at medical laboratory science in the health sector. Otherwise, where have
you seen a non -medical doctor posted to consult patients in government hospitals in Nigeria? Even under emergency, when there are no doctors the patients are left unattended. If the doctor does not come eventually, nothing happens and heavens do not fall. This act of quackery is about playing out again.

In a recently advertised recruitment exercise by Imo State government, the position of medical laboratory scientist is not advertised. This is in a situation where there are not enough scientists in the existing general hospitals. And the government is building 27 new ones who are going to work in the medical laboratories?

All private hospitals and clinics in Nigeria show on their signposts the offering of laboratory services, among others. But more than 90% of them have no Scientists. Who then runs the laboratory tests? Or are the tests not done? The society needs answers to these questions. It is important we know who handles our biological specimens and how. And the patients are entitled to know the result of their laboratory test(s) and have it. The private clinics can have laboratories attached to their centres, but they need to employ the appropriate manpower and equipment and be prepared to subject them to scrutiny by the regulatory body. If not they are going foul of the law. Alternatively, they can go into collaboration with registered and licensed laboratories to cover them. This is the global best practice. A hospital is not authorized to render laboratory and even pharmacy services unless it has the complementary workforce.

Almost all pharmacy shops now render medical laboratory services. This is the most recent level of rape of medical laboratory science profession. And it has become a common place since the advent of “point of care kits. The Pharmacists have joined in the rape whereas they cry wolf against the patent medicine vendors and guard jealously the opening of pharmacies.

There is need to state here that the sales and dispensing of drugs are not too difficult. Before now it was in the hands of non-pharmacists. As they have seen the need and are working to protect and preserve their profession, they should not join in raping medical laboratory science.

The NGOs are falling over themselves to render healthcare services. That is good. To render these services, they employ doctors and nurses, for their services, but for laboratory services, they employ “anybody”. And you need to see how this laboratory services are rendered. No interest is shown for the accuracy or reliability of the results produced. No precautions whatsoever are taken, particularly of safety. The question again here is, why “anybody” but not the scientist for laboratory services, while the right personnel are employed for other professions.

This is another area where you find a chunk of quacks. Many non-professionals open and manage laboratories. This level of rape is chronic and needs to be eliminated. It requires the concerted efforts of all the medical laboratory scientists, government at all levels and the populace/patients. The patient should ascertain the qualification of whom you are patronizing. The consequences of the employment of quacks include production of inaccurate, unreliable and non-reproducible results. This in turn means misdiagnosis and then mistreatment. In turn clinician will resort to guess work in managing patients. A non professional with the resources can set up a lab but has to employ the appropriate manpower to run it.

The use of quacks is of dare consequences – wastage of resources and eventual wastage of life. We need to discourage it.

It is a truism that laboratory services are essential components of health care delivery. There are only about twenty medical laboratory scientists in the employment of Imo State government and non in the local governments. This is about an average of one scientist to a functional general hospital, except the specialist hospital, where we may have up to 4. The situation arose because scientists retire and no new ones are employed.

It is important to bring to our notice here that before now the specialist hospital, then general hospital Owerri, had accreditation to train both students of medical laboratory science and Interns. But it has lost the accreditation due to poor situation in its laboratory services department.

The implication is that our students do not get the adequate training and the graduates have to look outside the State for placement if they are not taken by FMC, Owerri. This is improper and should be corrected.

Recently, due to the accreditation being sort by Imo School of Nursing and Health Sciences, the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria visited the specialist hospital. The hospital is one of those cited by the school as one of its training centers. Behold the laboratory facilities and manpower therein are below expectation. And unless the laboratory facilities and manpower are upgraded securing the reaccreditation may be difficult.

To be contd.
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