Rivalry, indifference aid avoidable deaths in hospitals
Fresh insight has been given into the increasing cases of needless deaths nationwide in government-owned hospitals arising from wrong diagnoses, fake and substandard medical laboratories.
The Guardian learnt that the major stakeholders responsible for medical and laboratory examinations – pathologists and medical laboratory scientists – are enmeshed in a battle of supremacy that has encouraged mediocrity and unprofessionalism.
Apart from leading to unnecessary deaths and permanent incapacitation of others occasioned by mediocrity and unprofessionalism, the rivalry has encouraged medical tourism and brain drain. It has forced Nigerians such as political office holders to travel abroad for the slightest ailment and diagnosis. The recent United Kingdom trip of President Muhammadu Buhari was as a result of the inadequacies of the local health sector.
More worrisome is the indifference of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) to an otherwise serious issue that has lingered for over 14 years and is impacting negatively on healthcare delivery in the country.
In some medical centres, the laboratories are littered with obsolete and non-functional equipment and perhaps, only the teaching hospitals could provide what could averagely pass for accurate results.
Medical laboratory scientists are said to be laying claim to the leadership of clinical diagnostics and strategising to edge out pathologists. At the centre of the unhealthy competition, it was further learnt, is the enactment of the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN) Act 11 of 2003 for the regulation of the profession and the consequential interpretations of the provisions of the legislation by some judicial officers.
The Act in Section 4 (e) provides that the MLSCN should “regulate the production, importation, sales and stocking of diagnostic laboratory reagents and chemicals; and in 4(f) inspect, regulate and accredit medical laboratories.”
Besides, the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Act 1992 (as amended) states that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) shall make regulations for the operation of clinical laboratory practice in the field of pathology and its sub-specialties.
But the National President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), Toyosi Raheem, blamed the situation on the stance of the supervising ministry.
His words: “It is really unfortunate that the FMoH has refused to be an unbiased umpire in the matter between medical laboratory scientists and the pathologists. There is always a seeming support for pathologists by the leadership of the ministry despite the clear statutes that prescribed the duties of medical laboratory scientists. The FMoH is always unwilling to direct the pathologists to adhere to their primary duties of using completed laboratory results generated by medical laboratory scientists to consult patients in special clinics run for relevant patients as originally envisaged for pathologists.”
He said that the feud between the pathologists and laboratory scientists was not ‘a battle’ but a misunderstanding of responsibilities. Raheem regretted the relegation of laboratory scientists which, according to him, has resulted in a situation where virtually all laboratories in public institutions are headed by pathologists.
The President of the Association of Pathologists of Nigeria (APN), Dr. Kenneth Iregbu, confirming the rot in the system, noted that half of the results from the laboratories nationwide were unreliable. But Iregbu did not respond to Raheem’s comments.
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