The Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientist (GAMLS) has warned that the country risk being hit with serious and continued rise of the COVID-19 infections if government fails to expand its testing facilities across the country. The group have insisted that the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health consider retrofitting existing GENEXPERT machines at the various public health labs in the country to support COVID-19 testing in the country. Despite the President acknowledging their call and the relevance to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, this recommendation has been given a deafen ear.
The group in a press release issued today, remarked that government has shown little or no commitment towards this.
The leadership of GAMLS is very much concern about the continuous increase and spread of the SARS COV-2 infection in Ghana as the situation poses a risk to Ghanaians including medical laboratory professionals who provide COVID-19 testing, routine and additional complementary testing to manage COVID-19 patients in our hospitals. They are directly and frequently exposed to the virus in high concentration.“The leadership of the professional body expresses disappointment in the lack of commitment from the authorities to heed to professional advice in the fight of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana
The GAMLS has thereby offered some four point recommendation that these agencies need to take salvage the situation from a rather unfortunate overwhelming situation.
Below is the full statement
COVID-19: WITHOUT EXPANDED TESTING, GHANA RISK FURTHER INCREASE IN COVID-19 CASES
The Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS) has noted with grave concern the increasing number of COVID-19 cases being reported in the country even as the authorities limit testing to a few centres. Ghana recorded 514 new cases on 20th June 2020, bringing the total number of cases to 13,717. The leadership of GAMLS is very much concern about the continuous increase and spread of the SARS COV-2 infection in Ghana as the situation poses a risk to Ghanaians including medical laboratory professionals who provide COVID-19 testing, routine and additional complementary testing to manage COVID-19 patients in our hospitals.
They are directly and frequently exposed to the virus in high concentration.
“The leadership of the professional body expresses disappointment in the lack of commitment from the authorities to heed to professional advice in the fight of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana.”
The professional body has persistently urged the authorities to expand testing centres using GeneXpert facilities available across the country, to speed up the testing process to reduce the community spread of the virus.
The professional body notes the following;
1. The avoidable delay in expanding testing to at least every region of Ghana and provision of consumables to enable the few expanded testing facilities to operate, does not show commitment to win the fight against the pandemic.
2. GAMLS has noted with concern the apparent lack and failure of the Government to strengthen Clinical health and private sector laboratories to provide testing for COVID-19 and other complementary tests. This neglect must be addressed with a matter of urgency. GAMLS proposes a Technical Working group for the clinical laboratories for COVID 19 Testing to address this anomaly.
3. That GAMLS was a key stakeholder of the team that developed and finalized Ghana NATIONAL LABORATORY PREPAREDNESS STRATEGY (PLAN and BUDGET) for COVID-19 about two months ago. All meetings of the Laboratory Technical Working Group which facilitated the strategies have since been stalled. Most of the timelines set in the strategy have since expired without implementation. Any further delay in the implementation of this strategy will worsen our already challenged COVID 19 testing approach.
4. The pronounced delay in the procurement of COVID-19 test cartridges and biosafety cabinets to operationalize over 100 GeneXpert — real time PCR equipment already used for TB diagnosis — already installed in more than 100 health facilities that can be used for COVID-19 testing.
“What is hindering the government from supporting the use of the GeneXpert equipment which can produce results for COVID-19 testing in 45 minutes in our hospitals for patients’ to ensure prompt care and management?”
The Professional body states that: “This is the surest way to identify COVID-19 cases and readily isolate them to prevent further transmission of infections to others.”
The neglect amounts to total disregard for the directive of H. E Nana Addo Dankwah Akuffo-Addo’s as contained in his address to update Ghanaians on COVID-19 on Sunday, April 19, 2020. “We are recalibrating 100 Regional and District Tuberculosis Gene Expert Laboratories across the country, to help ensure that we have a minimum situation of one testing centre per region”, the President stated.
We are calling on the authorities to as a matter of urgency, take steps to get the COVID-19 cartridges and to use the GeneXpert equipment as well as enough reagents for the established COVID-19 testing centers to operate. GAMLS is reminding the authorities of the crucial role of qualified personnel in fighting a pandemic of the nature the country is faced with. Government must take immediate steps to engage the services of the qualified but unemployed professionals to augment medical laboratory services in our health facilities.
GAMLS also wants to reiterate its calls for adequate provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for medical laboratory professionals and all health workers, and resumption of talks concerning insurance for laboratory professionals working on the frontline. This is still a challenge despite the good efforts made by government.
GAMLS calls on Government to prioritize the healthcare of citizens over profit and politics. Finally, we continue to encourage the general public to respect the directives by authorities and to strictly adhere to all the safety protocols and maintain good personal hygiene practices. With the plan of activities that may provide room for public gathering, we have to responsibly protect ourselves.
Dr Dennis Adu-Gyasi, FWAPCMLS (Immunol) GAMLS, PUBLIC RELATIONS,