Laboratory Professionals Calls for Stronger Commitment
Monrovia – Celebrating its fifth year of existence, CelebrateLAB West Africa Conference ended Wednesday, April 24, with call for more commitment and budgetary allocation.
Report by Alline Dunbar, [email protected]
The conference is a regional event, which takes place every year. It covers a range of topics including behavior in individuals and organizations that support procedures, professional standards and ethics to prevent the loss, theft, misuse, and diversion of biological agents, related materials and technology.
The theme for the conference this year is, “Biorisk Management in West Africa.”
Speaking on the challenges, mitigation and the need for expert capacity building, the Laboratory Quality Assurance Manager of the Henry Jackson Foundation in Nigeria, Dr. Edward Akinwale, said the challenges of Biorisk Management in Africa are multifarious. “Whether it is the question of international standard or national compliance, there is the issue of resurface, whether it is human or financial resources, we also have institutional challenge whether it is government, hospital management or even laboratory management at our local levels then there is the issue of quality laboratory practice and accreditation,” he stressed.
He further stated that the conference is focus on Biorisk management in Africa because most early infectious agent that kill humans originate from Africa and 50 percent of death in Africa are caused by infectious diseases.
“Agents of these infectious diseases passed through our laboratories, pass through our fingers and that is the reason why the infectious agents need to be protected from human beings which is biosecurity and the human beings need to be protected from the infectious agents that’s biosafety.”
Dr. Akinwale stated that Biorisk management has the marriage of both Biosecurity and Biosafety.
“Both of them have related values like protecting individuals and society from harms arising from biological agents.”
He stressed that it is expected of laboratories in West Africa to develop and maintain Biorisk management that are fixed to their unique operation in various levels. “There is no one side fixed of biorisk management, what you will adopt as a teaching hospital is different from what someone else in a non-teaching hospital will adopt.”
Furthermore Dr. Akinwale added that the reason most of those guidelines are not followed is because most of them were developed in places with high containment laboratories and places with high income and because of that the issue of technology and information sharing will not be a problem at those setups “but in our setups in Africa that is not the issue. Ironically, we are the custodians of the problem but then we still have to grapple with issues of elementary engineering controls in our laboratories; we still have to talk about training and retraining of our manpower.”
He, however, said that because African leaders do not spend more on the health sector or infrastructures, it is robbing the laboratory system.
Speaking on the case of Liberia, the Assistant Minister for Curative Services at the Ministry of Health, Catherine Cooper, said that because of the numerous lessons that the health sector learned from the Ebola outbreak in 2014, there has been gradual progress towards improving laboratory systems.
“We realized that we have to concentrate on the quality of our laboratory systems; we needed to concentration on capacity, we needed to concentrate on equipment, and so there was a wide range of areas that we had to address almost at the same time,” she said.
According to her, a plan has been developed by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National Public Health Institute, along with other partnered institutions of the Ministry on moving forward.
“Within that plan we realized that we had to strengthen the capacity of our lab technicians to have the ability to diagnose and detect infectious disease as they enter into our system.”
Listing challenges faced by the sector over the past five years, Minister Brown stated that there was limitation in lab technicians and because of that, lab aids were trained to help in boosting the human capacity of laboratories in the country. “Gradually we have been able to invest in training lab technicians. We also realize there is a limitation in the number of lab technicians in our system to ensure that we have them at different levels.”
The German government is among several sponsors of the conference.
The conference was organized by AfricaBio Enterprises Incorporated, which is a Liberian-owned company that specializes in management and consulting, leadership development, organizational development and Laboratory system strengthening.
Each year this organization hosts CelebrateLAB to celebrate laboratory professionals, who are the foundation of the health system.
Over 100 laboratory professionals from across the country, were trained in various lab networking skills. CelebrateLAB 2020 is expected to be held in Accra Ghana. .