The 2021 CelebrateLAB West Africa Conference was on Wednesday opened in Accra to serve as a platform to harness opportunities for future medical laboratory practices in the fight against pandemics.
The two-day conference, which is the seventh of its kind to be held in Africa, was attended by medical laboratory scientists and professionals and other health actors from across the West African Sub-region.
The conference, which is being held in Ghana for the first time, will discuss ways that medical professionals across West Africa could be part of the greater solution to enhance laboratory quality and improve diagnostics.
The Minister for Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, who opened the conference said the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had brought to the fore the vulnerabilities of health systems in the sub-region, highlighting the need for collaboration to better health outcomes for the population.
He said the government was committed to ensuring that the critical resources, including a competent, well-motivated and a trained workforce was available to address the current and future pandemics.
He said the conference theme, “Combating Emerging and Re-emerging Infections through Standardization of Laboratory Practice across West Africa”, reflects the present times adding; “I hope that this conference will generate innovative ideas and strategies on diagnosis to help address the myriad of health care challenges confronting the sub-region”.
Mr Agyeman-Manu stressed the need for health professionals to continue to partner government to realise the health goals of countries in the sub-region.
Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), said the coronavirus pandemic had offered Ghana an opportunity to improve its laboratory systems and capacity to provide diagnostics support for current and future outbreak infections.
He said presently Ghana has 30 laboratories for COVID-19 testing across all 16 regions and more were being created.
Dr Abudu Rahamani, President of the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists, said it was important for medical laboratorians to celebrate their efforts in combating COVID-19, especially as medical laboratory facilities in the West African sub-region were limited.
He added that even though the COVID-19 pandemic had been devastating, it had created opportunities for the practice of medical laboratory science in West Africa.
“The pandemic has exposed our laboratory systems for improvement. The experiences of the early stages of the pandemic in Africa is a wakeup call to all of us,” he said.
Dr Rahamani added that the pandemic was an opportunity for respective governments within the region to pay more attention to the health sector, particularly the medical laboratory sub-sector.
“As major stakeholders in the health sector, the time and stage is set for us to take a second look at our future existence and our contribution to the diagnosis and management of infectious diseases,” he said.
Ms Candace B. Eastman, Chief Executive Officer of Africabio Enterprises Inc., said medical laboratory personnel had a lot to be thankful for, because their industry had survived the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite the limited resources of laboratory scientists, we have seen substantial improvement in these times, it takes a holistic approach and a focus on the most important elements,” she said.
Ms Eastman urged laboratory personnel to be persistent in their work and continue to play their parts diligently in the fight against COVID-19.