The 22nd Annual National Conference/Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Guild of Medical Laboratory Directors of Nigeria (GMLD), that held in Aba, Abia State between Tuesday, September 29 and Saturday, October 3, has been described by many participants as one of the strongest battle against the age long Sickle Cell Disease.
The conference/AGM with the theme: “Persistent sickle cell disease in Africa – role of the private medical laboratories in its mitigation and possible eradication,” brought together all private proprietors of laboratories in Nigeria to the Aba Sports Club Complex for the three-day programme.
Key facts from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Sickle Cell Disease stated that approximately five per cent of the world’s population carries trait genes for haemoglobin disorders, mainly, sicklecell disease and thalassaemia.
WHO added that haemoglobin disorders are genetic blood diseases due to inheritance of mutant haemoglobin genes from both, generally healthy, parents. They also stated that over 300 000 babies with severe haemoglobin disorders are born each year.
Speaking on the dangers of Sickle Cell Disease in Africa at large, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, vowed that the state will pass a law that would ensure that the genotype of babies born in the Abia were stated in their birth certificates to reduce cases of sickle cell disease.
Ikpeazu, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Mr. Eze Egbulefu, said that Vicar Hope Foundation, his wife’s pet project, has been at forefront of fighting the sickle cell disease in the state, but the government has decided to take the fight to the next level.
Ikpeazu said the foundation had facilitated the move for the passage of a law to enable genotype tests on babies in Abia with their status embedded, on their birth certificates to avoid future mistakes and any form of falsification.
The governor said that government was ready to partner the body to end quackery in the profession and ensure that accurate diagnosis are gotten from all medical tests. The Keynote Speaker, Prof. Lawrence Chigbu, Rector, Abia State College of Health Science and Management Technology, described the theme of the conference as very apt for the moment.
He said only biologists and laboratory professionals have the capacity to curb the disease and urged them to be professional in their job to check its prevalence. Chigbu said that the most important role of the private medical laboratories in the mitigation and possible eradication of the sickle cell disease was to provide accurate diagnosis after testing.
He said the occurrence of the disease in Nigeria was about 18 per cent, adding that laboratory practitioners should ensure proper tests and counseling to unmarried couples to stop the disease.
According to him, the frequency of the occurrence of the genes responsible for it in Africa is up to 40 per cent. He said that sickle cell damages bone marrow and kidneys, among other destructive effects on the human body. “Your results are very important.
Avoid wrong diagnosis and ensure you give accurate result. Discourage marriages that are not genotype compatible. “Accurate diagnosis at the point of decision of marriage is far more better than any management or treatment method.
Always give the right counseling. Sickle Cell Disease is an age long problem,” he said. Mrs. Chioma Austin-Onuorah, National President, Guild of Medical Laboratory Directors of Nigeria (GMLD), said that the capacity under-utilization of private laboratories in Nigeria has discouraged investors and brought about underdevelopment of the sector.
Austin-Onuorah pleaded with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to review its operations to allow for the inclusion of private laboratory operators in the system. She said the GMLD remains committed in promoting accessible and timely laboratory services and preventive health screens in order to prevent or predict disease onset and maintain treatable data for necessary health interventions.
The GMLD National President said the organization created the conference forum to discuss and address issues that promote healthy lifestyle and preventive healthcare. She also said that the sector promotes accessible, timely laboratory and preventive health screens that prevent and predict disease onset and preserve traceable data for health interventions.
Austin-Onuorah commended the Federal Government for all efforts to strengthen the health sector, after the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the country’s inadequacies in terms of testing capacities. She said that the Federal Government, having realized the inadequacies on ground in terms of testing, proactively rose to the occasion by bringing in the laboratory private sector to help ramp up testing.
Austin-Onuorah however made a plea on the tax system calling on the authorities to reduce the burden on small businesses like the private laboratories so they can play their roles better. “We’re aware that efforts have been made by tax authorities to streamline the tax system but more attention is needed in order to avoid over burdening small businesses like the private laboratories with multiple taxation,” she said.
The Local Organizing Committee Chairman of the Abia Guild of GMLD/ Chairman on GMLD National Conference 2020, Dr. Protase Iwuaba, said that the theme of this year’s conference was chosen because of the menace of the sickle cell disease and its complications on the affected patients.