Lagos Approves Seven Private Laboratories for COVID-19 Testing

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Lagos Approves Seven Private Laboratories for COVID-19 Testing
Nwolu Obiajulu

The Lagos state government has approved seven private laboratories in the state to kick start COVID-19 testing and scale up testing capacity.

Health ministry in Lagos disclosed that the ministry approved the seven laboratories after they had been vetted and properly screened by the Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA), to ensure their efficiency.

The private laboratories approved are- Total Medical Services, SynLab, 54 Gene, Medbury medical Services, Biologix Medical Services, 02 Medical Services and Clina Lancent Laboratories.

Commissioner for Health, Akin Abayomi in his speech at the introduction ceremony of the laboratories said that the strategic effort against coronavirus at this point requires massive testing through expanded testing capacity to ensure more access to test.

Abayomi disclosed that key strategy towards achieving their aim is the adoption of a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to urgently scale up the state’s capacity to rise up to the challenge of increased need for testing by citizens in the advanced point of the state’s biosecurity plan.

According to Abayomi: “We recognise the need to expand our testing, especially to the local government areas that are most affected by the community transmission of the virus and as Lagos State continuously manages the public crises caused by COVID19, it simultaneously attempts to open up various aspects of its economy. Both efforts make it imperative that COVID19 tests are widely available to members of the public.

“In a bid to ramp up our testing capacity, we have taken a strategic decision to include private laboratories in the testing of COVID19. However, the State’s COVID19 response will remain a centrally managed emergency response by the State Government and the need to test will be surveillance driven and based on a clear case definition”

The commissioner expressed the State Ministry of Health’s readiness to meet up to the goal of increased testing through a well-planned road map. He noted that the desire to expand testing informed the collaboration with the private sector laboratories to swiftly expand diagnostic testing for coronavirus response.

The Commissioner reiterated that the use of Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits (RDT) still banned from being used for tests in the state until proper validations are carried. He said the newly incorporated private laboratories are only allowed to utilize PCR test for diagnosis.

“In order to expand our testing capacity, we considered the use of Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) Kits. To facilitate the quick validation of the RDT Kits and reduce the barrier of entry for proposed manufacturers and supplier of RDT Kits, Mr. Governor paid the validation fees for the RDT kits

“However, upon review of the several RDT kits that were submitted for validation, we can report that none of the RDT kits passed the validation exercise. RDT kits have a very high risk of giving false positive or negative results and in the event that a false positive result is given, a potentially negative person will be subjected to trauma, isolation and treatment like a positive patient. In the event that a false negative is given, a potentially positive person is allowed to continue to roam freely in the community regardless of his positive status”, Abayomi posited.

Highlighting the demand for COVID19 testing in the community, the Commissioner opined that citizens will request for COVID19 test; to confirm status periodically, as part of requirements for returning to work, regulatory requirements for selected industries like the food and beverage industry, local & international travel requirements, requirements for resuming School and admission into hospital.

“We expect demand for tests from the following industries: individuals in the informal sector, banking & finance, manufacturing, food & beverages, schools, aviation industry, fast moving consumer goods, hospitality amongst others. Based on the projected cumulative demand from the above, we believe that demand for covid-19 tests could exceed 4,000 per day in the next six months”, he said.

He said that Biobank in Lagos state will be utilised as the central controlling body for the private sector laboratories and will ensure proper information exchange, access to training, maintain secure chain of custody procedure and ensure technical standards in the operations of the laboratories.

Dr. Bamidele Mutiu, Director of Lagos State Bio-Bank, emphasised that the laboratories were chosen by merit after rigorous consideration and examination of their equipment and expertise to handle COVID-19 test within the yardstick of the testing strategy.

“The selected laboratories went through a rigorous accreditation process with the State’s Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA). The accredited private laboratories were then validated by the Lagos State Bio-Bank”

“This exercise involved validating the outputs of the samples they tested and following the successful validation of the private laboratories, the State proceeded to build their capacity in Infection Prevention and Control as well as the management of a biosafety lab”, Mutiu explained.

He noted that State’s decision to commence community based care, makes it imperative to make PCR testing more widely available stressing that there are currently a larger number of PCR machines in the private sector than there are in the public sector.

“The idea is to decentralize testing, while maintaining the integrity and regulation of sample collection, testing and result validation”, Mutiu stated.

The high point of the event was the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Health and representatives of the accredited private laboratories. Lagos state has carried out the greatest number of COVID-19 tests among the state in Nigeria and currently lead infection rate with 10310 confirmed cases.

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