The Lagos State Government has approved additional seven seven private laboratories to begin COVID-19 testing in the State.
According to a statement by the State Ministry of Health, the seven Laboratories are; Total Medical Services, SynLab, 54 Gene, Medbury medical Services, Biologix Medical Services, 02 Medical Services and Clina Lancent Laboratories.
The Ministry of Health noted that these seven Laboratories were selected and approved after a rigorous accreditation and validation process by the Health Facility Monitoring and Accrediation Agency (HEFAMAA) and the Lagos State Bio-Bank.
Speaking at a ceremony to formally introduce the laboratories to the public, 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 COVID19 test.
Abayomi added that the 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, 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”
Abayomi added that the State Ministry of Health has also identified potential opportunities to achieve its goal of expanded testing via a carefully articulated framework. He stressed that recognition of the potential opportunities was what led to the partnership with the private sector laboratories to rapidly increase diagnostic testing for COVID-19 response.
The Commissioner while noting that the accredited private laboratories will carry out only PCR test stated that the use of Rapid Diagnostic Tests Kits (RDT) remains illegal in Lagos until State government can validate RDT kits that actually works.
“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.
Abayomi noted that the Lagos State Biobank will serve as the central coordinating body for the accredited private laboratories and will facilitate effective information exchange, access to training, maintain 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 COVID19 within the parameters 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.