Welcome Address delivered by Alh Toyosi Y. Raheem at AMLSN 2017 Public Health Lecture

Welcome Address delivered by Alh Toyosi Y. Raheem-National President Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN) on the Occasion of 2017 Public Health Lecture of AMLSN Held at Nelrose Hotel, Asaba, Delta State on Friday February 24, 2017

Protocols

Background: The 2017 edition of the Annual Public Health Lecture Series of our association marks a decade of the introduction of the programme by our association. It will be recalled that the Annual Public Lecture Series was introduced by our association as an additional scientific activity in 2007. This is an additional means of making positive impact on the public, and raising awareness on very topical health issues. The goal of the annual programme is to enable our association contribute to the national efforts at improving the health status of all Nigerians.
AMLSN leadership has resolved to make all our activities structured in such a way that the need of the people who are consumers of our professional services in areas of diagnostic services, research, human resource development, preventive/public health services etc, are met. We have resolved to improve on the capacity and competencies of members with a view of achieving quality and better health system in the country.
Statistics have shown that burden of diseases in Africa and specifically in Nigeria, cannot be ignored by health professionals, especially, the Medical Laboratory Scientists. Of special interest in the Sustainable Development Goals, is the reduction in the burden of diseases globally especially Malaria, TB and HIV. We cannot exhaust discussions on malaria as long as the disease is still causing significant morbidity and mortality in Nigeria especially in children and pregnant women. Also, environmental pollutants that are injurious to humans have also attracted out serious attention. Experts have been invited to lead us in these discussions.
Partnership for development: AMLSN shall continue to reach-out to all stake holders in health sector and other institutions in order to bring about partnership for development. No wonder the public health lecture this year, is in collaboration with one of the partners of AMLSN-the Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State. Three (3) important scholars from the university are here today to add colour to this 10th Public Health Lecture. One of them, a son of the soil, is the keynote Speaker.
Appeal to colleagues: Permit me to re-emphasize what I said in 2015 in Minna, Niger State on an occasion of this type- ‘to excel as a nation, our people especially, Medical Laboratory Scientists, must make use of the opportunities obtained through Continuous Professional Development Programmes. Out-dated knowledge should be dispensed with, and new ones embraced for national health development and quality services’. I urge my colleagues and the scientific community nationally, to take more active parts in malaria research activities including clinical trials and drug efficacy studies through work place inter professional, inter agencies and inter institutional collaborations.
Appeal to FMOH: It is worrisome to note that while other countries are putting in place, structures that will strengthen medical laboratories to enable them effectively combat global health threats, the Federal Ministry of health has not demonstrated sufficient willingness to partner with our association and give the needed encouragements to Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN) in her attempt to eliminate quackery and professional malpractices in Nigeria. It is worrisome to note that while Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and other regulatory bodies are seen regularly on the electronic and print media sealing companies and markets selling or producing illegal or substandard goods and drugs/foods respectively, similar exercise by MLSCN to sanitize the medical laboratories in Nigeria, was put on hold by fiat, since February 2016 by FMoH. This has enabled quacks to proliferate the medical laboratories at the expense of quality health services. We therefore urge the FMoH to lift the embargo on inspection of medical laboratories (a conformity assessment), and allow MLSCN perform her statutory functions in order to strengthen medical laboratory services and promote quality healthcare in Nigeria.
Appeal to FGN on (i) Universal Health Coverage: One of the ways of making the masses have dividend of democracy is provision of available, affordable, effective and accessible health services to the poor masses. This is why Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is strongly supported by our association as reflected in the National Health Act 2014. We are also delighted to note that the recent National Health Policy adopted by Federal Executive Council on February 15, 2017, is said to be pro-poor, lays emphasis on UHC, Provision of appropriate and adequate number of human resources for health at all levels of healthcare, reduction of maternal and child mortality, prevention and control of public health emergencies etc. In all of these, medical laboratory scientists shall 3obviously play very significant roles for the envisaged effective health system. As we have said on several occasions, medical laboratory services and general diagnostic services, are usually the most expensive components of healthcare services.
AMLSN will appreciate health programs and policy on healthcare financing that will make medical laboratory services free or highly subsidized for the poor masses who could not afford to pay out-of-pocket for such needed laboratory services in Nigeria not to mention travelling out of Nigeria for such services. The foreign supports for diagnosis and treatment of TB, Malaria and HIV from US tax payer’s money and philanthropists have shown that free diagnostic laboratory services can be rendered to the poor masses by the FGN through properly mobilized funding mechanisms. The current Rapid Results Initiatives (RRRIs) of FMoH should sufficiently integrate medical laboratory scientists even at the proposed 10,000 PHCs targeted by the FMoH. Federal Government should establish functional flagship medical laboratories at least one in each of the federal constituencies in the country for accessibility and availability of medical laboratory services at the proposed PHCs. There cannot be quality healthcare services at the PHCs when request for laboratory services cannot be met as at when required, and as close to the people as possible!
(ii) Reconstitution of Governing Boards of Teaching Hospitals, other tertiary Health Institutions and the Health Regulatory Bodies by FGN: The current inter and intra professional challenges and inadequate quality services in various tertiary hospitals and health institutions in Nigeria could be traceable to absence of Governing Boards of hospitals and those of the Health Regulatory bodies. This has make policies that will promote quality health services in such health institutions to be hindered. AMLSN hereby urge the FGN to reconstitute the Governing Boards of the health institutions and those of the regulatory bodies to enhance quality healthcare services to the masses.
(iii) Compliance with National Industrial Court of Nigeria’s Judgements and Rule of Law: Distinguished guests, gentlemen of the Press; you will recall that the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Nigerian people and the National Health Act, 2014 forbids health professionals going on strikes in order to demand for their legitimate rights. These are the civilized reasons why as medical laboratory scientists and members of our reputable and civilized professional association, we subscribed to the ‘no strike option’. Rather, we pursued our legitimate right through every constitutional means including legal actions and processes.

After painstakingly pursuing our cases at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), the Courts ruled in these matters in 2013 -against FMC Asaba; 2014 -against JUTH; 2015 -against JUTH ; 2016- against OAUTH Ife and University of Uyo Teaching Hospital; and in 2017- against JUTH, the Minister of Health, FETHA, UNTH, National Orthopeadic Hospital Enugu, NAUTH, and others). Our Association wishes to categorically state that Nigeria cannot be living in the jungle; hence, rule of law and separation of powers must be respected. When rule of law is disrespected, anarchy is promoted!

Appreciation/conclusion: Distinguished Guests, Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of all members of AMLSN, I appreciate Delta State Government, the Management and Staff of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, members of the public and all our invitees/ guests for providing resources and the enabling environment that will facilitate successful and memorable outcome of all our activities in Delta State within the next 2 days and thereafter.
Thank you and God bless.

Alh Toyosi Y. Raheem (MSc, FMLSCN, FAMLSN, Cert Immunol)
National President, AMLSN.
Friday February 24, 2017.