The Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS) has asked the government to expand testing for COVID-19 in order to curtail the spread.
The GAMLS said it has noted with grave concern the increasing number of COVID-19 cases being reported in the country even as the authorities limit testing to a few centres.
Ghana recorded 414 new COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, 23 June 2020 to take the total case count to 14,568 with 95 deaths and over 10,000 recoveries.
The leadership of GAMLS said in a statement on Tuesday that they are “very much concerned about the continuous increase and spread of the SARS COV-2 infection in Ghana, as the situation poses a risk to Ghanaians, including medical laboratory professionals, who provide COVID-19 testing, routine and additional complementary testing to manage COVID-19 patients in o our hospitals. They are directly and frequently exposed to the virus in high concentration”.
“The leadership of the professional body expresses disappointment in the lack of commitment from the authorities to heed to professional advice in the fight of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana.”
“The professional body has persistently urged the authorities to expand the testing centres using GeneXpert facilities available across the country, to speed up the testing process to reduce the community spread of the virus”.
GAMLS said the “avoidable delay in expanding testing to, at least, every region of Ghana and provision of consumables to enable the few expanded testing facilities to operate, does not show commitment to winning the fight against the pandemic”.
“GAMLS has noted with concern the apparent lack and failure of the government to strengthen clinical health and private sector laboratories to provide testing for COVID-19 and other complementary tests. This neglect must be addressed with a matter of urgency. GAMLS proposes a Technical Working group for the clinical laboratories for COVID 19 Testing to address this anomaly.”
The statement added: “GAMLS was a key stakeholder of the team that developed and finalised the Ghana National Laboratory Preparedness Strategy (PLAN and BUDGET) for COVID-19 about two months ago. All meetings of the Laboratory Technical Working Group, which facilitated the strategies, have since been stalled. Most of the timelines set in the strategy have since expired without implementation. Any further delay in the implementation of this strategy will worsen our already challenged COVID 19 testing approach”.
“The pronounced delay in the procurement of COVID-19 test cartridges and biosafety cabinets to operationalise over 100 GeneXpert – real-time PCR equipment already used for TB diagnosis – already installed in more than 100 health facilities that can be used for COVID-19 testing”.
“What is hindering the government from supporting the use of the GeneXpert equipment which can produce results for COVID-19 testing in 45 minutes in our hospitals for patients’ to ensure prompt care and management?” the group asked, adding: “This is the surest way to identify COVID-19 cases and readily isolate them to prevent further transmission of infections to others.”
“The neglect amounts to total disregard for the directive of H. E Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo, as contained in his address to update Ghanaians on COVID-19 on Sunday, 19 April 2020, thus: ‘We are recalibrating 100 Regional and District Tuberculosis Gene Expert Laboratories across the country to help ensure that we have a minimum situation of one testing centre per region’”.
“We are calling on the authorities to, as a matter of urgency, take steps to get the COVID-19 cartridges and to use the GeneXpert equipment as well as enough reagents for the established COVID-19 testing centres to operate”.
“GAMLS is reminding the authorities of the crucial role of qualified personnel in fighting a pandemic of the nature the country is faced with. The government must take immediate steps to engage the services of qualified but unemployed professionals to augment medical laboratory services in our health facilities. GAMLS also wants to reiterate its calls for adequate provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for medical laboratory professionals and all health workers, and the resumption of talks concerning insurance for laboratory professionals working on the frontline. This is still a challenge despite the good efforts made by the government”.
“GAMLS calls on the government to prioritise the healthcare of citizens over profit and politics. Finally, we continue to encourage the general public to respect the directives by the authorities and to strictly adhere to all the safety protocols and maintain good personal hygiene practices. With the plan of activities that may provide room for public gathering, we have to responsibly protect ourselves.”