Mr. Felix Ofungwu is the Executive Director of ISN Products Nigeria Limited, among the leading providers of medical diagnostic services and products in Nigeria. He holds a Bachelors’ degree in Economics (with difference) from the Purdue University, Indiana, United States, and also a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School. With more than 15 years of professional services experience, Ofungwu has actually led customer engagements throughout various industries, including healthcare, financial services, retail, gaming, consumer goods, industrial products, and transportation. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, he shares the idea behind the effort to rearward and assistance remarkable Medical Laboratory researchers throughout the country.
‘ What notified your decision to establish the Medical Laboratory Scientist of the Year initiative?
As a supplier of medical laboratory (lab) devices, reagents and consumables, we have actually remained in business of supporting labs and laboratory researchers for 40 years now. Over that time, we have actually interacted with a lot of medical lab researchers and managers and something that struck us was that for many years, there is little or no acknowledgment on their efforts and the role that they play in healthcare system.
Likewise, there is no appropriate gratitude for their role in supplying precise diagnoses and truly helping clients to get diagnosed and treated better.
So, we believed we could use the ISN Medical Lab Researcher Year Award as a platform to very first boost awareness and profile of laboratory scientists throughout the nation, and secondly raise the conversation around quality and the difference in quality in the different labs and practices of medical lab sciences. With a little bit of support and the right working tools, we can stand shoulder to carry with any laboratory scientists in the world.
With the first edition, will you state you are on the journey to achieving this objective?
Yes, we have actually gotten a great deal of goodwill. There is no doubt that it has led to an enhancement of the nature of the occupation. We could see nearly a new pride as a result of that event, particularly those that attended and witnessed the event. Again, we are likewise seeing a lot more positive conversations around quality laboratories and their practices. We are even more along in that journey.
What are those positive practices you hope to see in Nigeria’s medical laboratory occupation?
Even before we get to the laboratory stage, we must see more medical professionals verifying their hypothesis, as to what may be incorrect with the patient through the test results. One of the things we should be seeing is more doctors having their clients run these tests to confirm what may be wrong with them.
On the other hand, when it gets to the lab phase, ensuring that the labs handle quality measures in running and analysing the test results. One way this can be kept an eye on is through the External Quality Assurance (EQA). Laboratories are supposed to send out their outcomes to an accreditation or independent body, so the body will send them a sample that the results are known, and match what they are expected to be getting for that sample. We want to see more labs subscribing the external quality control programs and we are seeing a lot more labs aiming to sign up for External Quality programs to verify that the outcomes they are receiving from the lab analysis is in fact accurate and not flawed in anyway.
There are numerous bodies that run EQAs; while some are run by the private sector, others are federal government affiliated. For instance, the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria collaborates quality assurance programs, so it is a mix.
What, in your opinion, is accountable for misdiagnosis in laboratory outcomes?
There are numerous factors that can be accountable. We found out that most of the errors in the medical laboratory chain happen at the pre-analytical stage. Prior to you run the samples on the system, mistakes have actually already been introduced. Mistakes can come from how you draw the blood, or specimen you are testing; what you used to gather it because, there are some collection tubes or containers that can be polluted. There’s likewise the problem of how you handle it upon collection, because there are specific procedures you ought to observe upon collection. How you keep the specimen prior to analysis, all of these processes could have errors presented to them before tests is being carried out.
So, the pre-analytical element we have discovered out to be the greater source of errors than the analytical element.
Lastly, the post-analytical chain of the medical diagnosis; how are the outcomes gathered and dispersed? In some cases, you can have a cross match or inequality, where an outcome for Patient A is offered to B. So, there are numerous locations where errors can be presented, but we find out that the pre-analytical stage has one of the most.
As an organisation, how do you intend to militate versus these errors you described?
We have items across the worth chain that fits within the pre-analytical phase. We have specimen collection products, syringes, needles and tubes for collecting specimen. We also provide training on how to collect specimen properly, how to deal with and keep it correctly. We contribute in the analytical side. We distribute quality instrument and systems that labs utilize to run their tests. In the post- analytical side, we coordinate an External Quality Assessment ( EQA) programs to ensure that the results patients are getting are the right outcomes. We are an across the country distribution business. We have 10 circulation workplaces across the country. We have instruments presently in every state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with an install base site in over a thousand locations in the nation. So, we have the ability to actually service every part of the nation and reach any part within a couple of hours.
What role should Medical Laboratory researchers play at this period of the COVID-19 pandemic?
I am sure you understand these symptoms are comparable to other illnesses and so the only way to verify who has the virus is to run a lab test. A laboratory is important, as without it, you can not confirm who has COVID-19, validate the numbers or the frequency in a specific location. The laboratory is absolutely vital to managing this pandemic since they are arbitrates of reality of if a client has COVID-19 or not.
Having run this service for a while, what do you think about as your biggest difficulties?
There are lots of challenges that we deal with and some of them are macro obstacles that lots of services face; obstacles around facilities. As an importer, we also have the obstacles with bringing products in and making certain we clear them on time and we have the ability to deliver them quickly to our consumers who have clients to address, thus its rather immediate.
All the items we bring in have limited shelf life and so it is important we bring them in quickly and get them on site as soon as possible.
On a larger level, in regards to supporting the medical labs, there are still some confusions as to what a quality laboratory ought to look like; we have all sorts of mushroom lab all over the place and there isn’t adequate tracking at what they are doing. So, sometimes there’s confusion as to what a quality lab need to look like. What we are trying to do, as ISN, is to clear off some of those confusions.
Are you working together with the federal government to attain these objectives?
We have a great relationship with the Medical Lab Council of Nigeria, which has keeping an eye on function of ensuring sanity in the practice; we work with the government to achieve this.
The healthcare sector is largely underfunded, just how much do you think should be invested annual in the sector?
Nigeria was one of them and the host vowed to commit 15 per cent of their budget each year to healthcare.
The Abuja Accord was well thought out and pondered upon; the 15 percent is a great number. There are number of nations that have lived up to this and I believe that is where we ought to look at
Investment in research is still low in medical lab field, how should we approach this?
Stakeholders have roles to play in health care system, particularly in Research and Development (R&D). It is running a long-term study on co-morbidity associated to Human Immunodeficiency Infection (HIV) and the connection between HIV and non-communicable diseases.
Lab researchers: Unrecognized heroes of medical practice in Nigeria
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