As the world is literally held hostage by the vicious coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Dr. Ahmed Omilana, a cross disciplinary medical specialist, has said Nigeria’s health care infrastructure needs revamping to boost access to medical care and achieve better healthcare outcomes.
In an interview, Omilana, who is the Chairman/CEO Fitplus Healthcare Limited, a topline pathology laboratory, said strengthening the medical diagnostics sub-sector with sophisticated laboratory facilities holds the master key to saving the country’s health sector.
“A major hurdle stakeholders are struggling to cross in the country’s health sector is the issue of misdiagnosis on the part of medical laboratory personnel operating within the hospital environment. Due to lack of infrastructure/equipment to carry out accurate laboratory diagnosis, many doctors have been misled into committing errors while administering treatment for some health complications.
“In the same vein, inadequate laboratory reagents to investigate specimens to find the exact cause of illness while inaccurate results have come out of laboratory investigations and since doctors rely on the outcomes of such investigations, a lot of havoc has been committed, some leading to the death of patients,” Omilana said.
As the country tackles Covid-19 sample testing and inadequate test kits, the expert delved into the state of diagnostics laboratory in the country, explaining that people must first understand what laboratory tests are. Laboratory tests are medical procedures carried out to evaluate, diagnose and determine disease, which ultimately directs the course of treatment, Omilana said. For doctors to effectively treat an individual, they need to understand the cause of the illness, he stressed.
“Medical history, physical examination, and where necessary, requesting for laboratory tests can help doctors deduce the cause of an illness. Laboratory tests are valuable tools in deducing definite diagnosis, or a screening tool for detecting hidden disease in asymptomatic patients. It is essential that laboratory tests done are accurate and reliable to ensure that correct diagnosis is made.”
While stressing the importance of diagnosis in healthcare delivery, Omilana said laboratory tests serve to support or refute a doctor’s clinical suspicion. “It helps ascertain the clinical status of the patient, ensuring it justifies the clinician line of management. It can also assist in identifying individuals that are susceptible to diseases or infection and can help determine if their status warrants clinical intervention.
“If the tests done are inaccurate, the doctor may end up making the wrong diagnosis; mistreat the patient which can result in death or severe complications. It is imperative that tests are done in a laboratory that guarantees accurate results to avoid this. In the past, people who could afford it would always travel abroad for test. But now with Fitplus Healthcare firmly established with latest technology, we can provide the same international standards so that people do not have to travel out for every single test or health check plan,” he said.
According to him, about two-thirds of clinical diagnosis is achieved through laboratory tests in more developed countries.
Although the situation in Nigeria has improved compared to about two decades ago, he said a lot more still needs to be done as regards utilising laboratory tests in achieving a reliable diagnosis.
He insisted that the country needs to work a lot harder to set new infrastructural standard in the health sector, raise technology standards and capacity building in all health institutions, provide standard of care in all hospitals to ensure that Nigeria does not continue to lose income through medical tourism.
“There is a lot that the private sector can achieve. All we require is an enabling environment with stable enforceable policies. Nigerians are extremely entrepreneurial, creative and capable of achieving a lot. But we need to have a more positive attitude and be prepared to work harder, focusing on long term gains. Private investors are the engines for economic growth and development all over the world and I strongly believe that the development of the private healthcare sector is the future for healthcare in Nigeria.
“We need to re-evaluate our health system with emphasis on primary care and public health education, which will significantly reduce disease burden. There is no panacea to Nigeria’s declining health systems and access to quality medical care. But the concerted efforts of individuals, doctors, government and the society would go a long way in tackling on these issues.The government should create good basic infrastructure and provide good policies that allow for long-term development in healthcare as well as ensure effective regulation of standards,” he added.