We’ll ensure medical lab scientists provide qualitative service to Nigerians – Raheem | Independent Newspapers Limited
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We’ll ensure medical lab scientists provide qualitative service to Nigerians – Raheem

Posted: Apr 16, 2015 at 4:52 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Raheem Toyosi Yekeen was recently elected as the National President of the Association of the Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN). In this interview with Correspondent, HASSAN ZAGGI, he speaks onwhat his intends to achieve in the next three years and proffers solution to the lingering rivalry in the health. He also speaks on other issues. Excepts:

You have emerged as the president of the Association of the Medical Laboratory Scientist of Nigeria (AMLSN), what are you bringing to the table?

I was recently elected as the 12th National President of the Association of

Raheem Toyosi Yekeen

Raheem Toyosi Yekeen

the Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN). Our association having been founded in 1964, has had 11 presidents, incidentally, I become the 12th national president.

On what we are bringing to the table, we intend to put into play a lot of action-pack activities. When I was delivering my manifesto to my colleagues, I made specific areas known to them as my own areas of interest. But having won the election, I interacted with my other colleagues in the cabinet and we were able to put together what I call a blueprint for the association in the next three years.

A very important area of attention is what we call advocacy. We need to engage a lot of policy and decision makers; a lot of people that were not probably getting us well understood our areas concerns and our mission and vision for this profession.

We have listed those people that we feel we should interact positively with them. They are people in government, starting from the President, office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Head of Service, state Commissioners for Health, medical directors, directors and people that are working in Ministries, Parastatals and Agencies (MDAs).

These are areas we want to do advocacy so that they will clearly understand our objectives whenever we make pronouncements on specific issues.

Secondly, we will want to interact with people at the legislative level so that we can make maximum input into health legislation and other legislations that we feel will impact positively on the public. As stakeholders and as Nigerians, we should be able to make impact on such areas, whether health legislation or non-health legislations, that is also our area of priority.

But concerning our specific areas as medical lab scientists, one of the areas we feel we should touch is to ensure that medical lab scientists, wherever they practise, whether at tertiary, secondary or primary health care level, offer the best medical laboratory service. The way we want to ensure this is to ensure that the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved quality management system is adhered to and to also ensure that most laboratories where our members work are up to date concerning quality as stipulated by the WHO ISO 15189 standard, because that is the standard approved by WHO for any laboratory whether in Nigeria or globally.

Medical laboratories are the pivots by which diagnosis treatments are based. When we talk of diagnosis, we want to find out what is responsible and when you talk of treatment, when the doctors are treating they want to see whether the patient is responding well or not. If the patient is not responding well, it could result from the result of the laboratory test. If the patient is responding, the result of the laboratory test will show that.

So, if we have quality medical laboratories that are standardized based on ISO 15189 standards, and then we will be sure that our colleagues that are producing them are doing that and whatever results they are generating are up to date and reliable.

We also want to do that through Continuous Programme Development (CPD).  We want to make sure that there is capacity building for our members at all levels. That we can do by ensuring that whatever workshop we are putting in place will be the type that will meet the need of the people.

We have also scheduled our programmes annually, which we want all our members to actively participate. Their capacity will be boosted, the clients they are rendering service to will be able to get the best from them and then we will be proud we have contributed positively to health care service.

Another area we want to impact positively on is the area of innovative translational research. As medical lab scientists, we believe that our work does not really stop at diagnosis; we can also by virtue of our professional training contribute positively in the area of research.

What we have planned to do to improve the performance of our members is to introduce what we call Health Research Foundation, which we will pull resources and use to support any member that has initiative that can impact positively on translational research. Translational research is that one, which will assist in making sure patients get better.

Apart from that, I have been in the service of this association for quite a while, I have served as the national secretary before and I had also served as the financial secretary and I have also served as the first national vice president before I was elected as the national president.

I discovered that we don’t have a national secretariat. The national secretariat is where the national president is. But at a point we had a rented apartment, which was in Abuja.

My vision for this association is that by the grace of God, before I leave office, at least we should have a permanent secretariat of our own instead of living in a rented apartment.

More importantly, the unity of our members is of paramount importance to me. One very important thing is that there is no organisation without crisis, but one thing that is important is how we are able to manage or keep the members together and retain the spirit of oneness that is expected among professionals.

I know we have issues on ground such as inter and intra professional bickering and many things like that, these and many others are things I will handle and resolve.

Do you see a medical laboratory scientist heading a hospital as CMD or MD in the near future?

Yes, it is possible. You see, in advanced countries such as UK and even in South Africa, which is very close to Nigeria, you see that the chief executive of hospitals are not necessarily medical doctors. I am happy that a committee that was set up by government went to South Africa and saw that the chief executive officers of those hospitals are not medical doctors. History has also taught us that between 1952 and 1984, most chief executives of our health facilities were non-medical doctors and that was why in those days they called them House Governors.

It is possible for a medical laboratory scientist that is a very sound administrator that has the necessary experience and has the prerequisite requirement to administer an organisation; it is possible for him to be the chief executive of any institution.

How do you intend to deal with quacks in your profession?

Quacks are always in every profession. It is not unusual to see quacks everywhere. However, we are pained and worried with quackery in health care because whatever they do impact negatively on the care of the patient and it could lead to unnecessary loss of lives. It could also lead to impairment and so many adverse effects.

We believe that quackery is a serious issue that we must address. One of the ways we have set out to achieve this is to ensure that all our members give us their detail information. We have directed that we are to create a data bank of all our members where at a click of a button, you will be able to say yes, this is my member and this one is not my member. We are actually working on that.

We are also collaborating with the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN), because the regulation of medical laboratory science in Nigeria is the core function of the MLSCN, which is a government body that is saddled with that responsibility.

What we have done is to say that any time the council is going to any of the medical laboratory facilities in Nigeria, they can always carry along our branch officers. We have branches in the 36 states of the federation and the FCT. This is because these officers are the ones that will know where these quacks are hiding. Not only that, anywhere we see laboratory service available, because we have discovered that most hospitals hide under the belief that anybody can work in the hospital, just like the way you see auxiliary nurses working in the hospitals, we have a lot of quacks working in the various laboratories of some hospitals.

Beyond quackery, we also have professional malpractice. We also want to ensure that all our members are seen to be doing the right thing. When you are a professional and you are not doing the right thing, then you are said to engage in professional malpractices. You can be a quack if you are doing what you are not trained to do. Even if you have a Ph.D, even if you are a medical doctor and you are seen to be performing test and reusing that result, then that is quackery because that is not what you are trained to do. You are a physician and you are trained to treat people not to be doing analysis on patients’ fluid and releasing results. You can either be a quack or be accused of professional malpractice.

How do you think we can overcome the issue of rivalry among practitioners in the health sector?

Well, rivalry is worrisome to us as medical laboratory scientists. It is worrisome because it has made a lot of Nigerians to lose respect for the health sector.

You will see a lot of Nigerians going to herbal homes, you will also see many of them going to spiritual centres and many also travel outside Nigeria to countries as small as Benin Republic in order to get qualitative health care service. So, one will begin to wonder, why has Nigerian health professionals lost their respect to that extent.

As I told you earlier, this started when in 1984/85 where people who are supposed to man the health facilities were relegated due to the sentiment that it is only one category of professionals that should head the health facilities.

Since then, we have identified three causes of friction or rivalry in the health sector. They include ego, injustice and inadequate knowledge about other health professionals.

Ego is about one professional claiming that only he or she knows everything about the health sector. No other profession knows more than me and so every other profession must be under me.

As professionals that have gone to various schools and universities and have sufficient education, nobody will want to allow somebody to play down, oppress or suppress him or her when you are professionally autonomous.

The second one is injustice. This is a situation whereby a particular profession is being given an edge by being promoted as and when due while others are not.

If you look at the budgetary allocation to the health sector, the sector that is supposed to have the highest budgetary allocation is the medical laboratory service. This is because you have to procure equipments, which are expensive, reagents, chemicals and so on.

Look at the recently conquered Ebola Virus Disease and see the kind of protective garments they workers had to put on, how many health facilities in Nigeria have such garments?

For you to work effectively, you need to have all the necessary equipment in the medical laboratory. If you look at all this, the department that should be given the highest budgetary allocation should be the medical laboratory service.

That is why we are saying we should be head of our own service departments because he who wears the shoes knows where it pitches. This is because if you are in the management committee  meeting and you know the implication of what you are requesting, you will be able to defend it and explain it to the CMD.

There is also lack of understanding of other health professionals. By the time we come together and interact, see the level of intelligence and contribution we can make to the health care, we will come to know ourselves better. I have come to realize that people tend to look down on others because they have not moved closer to that person and have not really appreciated the depth of competencies these persons can display that will make health care move forward.

The message is that all of us must come together, interact and understand ourselves better and cooperate and encourage one another.

What is your expectation from the incoming APC government under the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, particularly in the health sector?

We are particularly impressed with the passion of the President-elect for a better Nigeria and especially the health sector, which from records, has experienced great feat during his first coming between 1983 and1985.

We are optimistic that he will appoint credible, competent, unbiased and experienced administrators to lead the Federal Ministry of Health. This no doubt, will put an end to incessant crises in the health sector in Nigeria. History has it that when an experienced professionally unbiased health whole of Commonwealth nations. Regrettably, decline set in from1985 soon after his exit as the then head of government.

The health sector is made up several professional groups, all of which have the capacity to perform optimally when given a level playing field, the needed motivation, necessary tools and enabling environment. This will in turn, promote universal health coverage, reduce out of pocket health expenditures for Nigerians, promote the achievement of health-related MDGs, among others.

Our association will be readily available and willing to contribute our best professionally; especially in the areas of effective, efficient, reliable, affordable and timely medical laboratory service in the health sector.