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Lagos State Government has approved the inclusion of seven private laboratories, namely: Total Medical Services, SynLab, 54 Gene, Medbury Medical Services, Biologix Medical Services, 02 Medical Services and Clina Lancent Laboratories among its testing facilities as part of efforts to expand the testing capacity for COVID-19 of the State.
The laboratories were selected and approved by the State Ministry of Health to carry out COVID-19 test after a rigourous accreditation and validation process by the Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA) and the Lagos State Bio-Bank.
Speaking at a ceremony to formally introduce the laboratories to the public, the Honourable Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi disclosed that a key element in the next phase of the State’s response strategy is to expand diagnostic testing to strategically ensure a larger number of people have access to the COVID-19 test.
Abayomi added that State Government has developed an inclusive strategy that aims to harness the public and private sectors to rapidly expand the State’s capacity to meet the growing demand for testing in the next stage of the State’s biosecurity road map.
He said, “We recognise the need to expand our testing capacity, 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 COVID-19, it simultaneously attempts to open up various aspects of its economy. Both efforts make it imperative that COVID-19 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 COVID-19. However, the State’s COVID-19 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 added.
He averred that the State Ministry of Healthhas also identified potential opportunities to achieve its goal of expanded testing via a carefully articulated framework, stressing that recognition of the potential opportunities led to the partnership with the private sector laboratories to rapidly increase diagnostic testing for COVID-19 response.
While noting that the accredited private laboratories will carry out only PCR test, Abayomi stated that the use of Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) kits remains illegal in Lagos until the State government can validate RDT kits that actually work.
In his words “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 COVID-19 testing in the community, the Commissioner opined that citizens will request for COVID-19 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 and 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 and finance, manufacturing, food and beverages, schools, the aviation industry, fast-moving consumer goods and 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.
Abayomi noted that the Lagos State Biobank will serve as the central coordinating body for the accredited private laboratories and will facilitate an effective information exchange, access to training, maintain a secure chain of custody procedure and ensure technical standards in the operations of the laboratories.
Earlier in his presentation, the Director Lagos State Bio-Bank, Dr. Bamidele Mutiu explained that the accredited private laboratories were identified to have the equipment and expertise to test for COVID-19 within the parameters of the testing strategy.
He said, “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”.
“The 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 expand PCR testing capacity, 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 decentralise 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 (MoU), between the Ministry of Health and representatives of the accredited private laboratories.