By Doris Obinna and Henry Uche
The Federal Ministry of Health, Lagos State Government and United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/SHOPS Plus have unveiled a 16-module GeneXpert machine, the first of its kind in the country, at the Diagnostics Complex of EL-Lab in Festac Town, Lagos, with a view to closing the gap in tuberculosis (TB) case detection, notification and treatment.
The machine, which is for molecular diagnosis of TB, was purchased by USAID through its Sustaining Health Outcomes through the Private Sector Plus project (SHOPS Plus) for the government of Nigeria to facilitate case detection in the private sector.
Recently, WHO said TB was a major public health concern in Nigeria with the country ranked sixth among the 30 high TB burden countries globally and about 15 per cent of the global gap in TB case notification.
At the launch, deputy director at USAID Nigeria office for HIV/AIDS and TB, Omosalewa Oyelaran, commended the efforts of all stakeholders and urged them to take up the challenge of finding and treating all cases of TB in Nigeria.
Oyelaran expressed USAID’s commitment to support private-sector engagement while encouraging them to take ownership and add value to success stories.
“We encourage all stakeholders to keep raising awareness on World Tuberculosis. This 16-module GeneXpert machine will increase the testing capacity, allow patients to know their status and be placed on treatment as quickly as possible,” she affirmed.
On her part, the Senior Private Sector Advisor, USAID/SHOPS Plus, Ayodele Iroko, commended private sector partners but implored them to engaged health professional associations and work tenaciously at expanding the pool of private sector TB providers by scaling up engagement to include more of their members while facilitating efforts to integrate tested approaches into facilities service provision for ownership and sustainability.
In his remarks, the national coordinator, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, identified “finding the missing cases and ensuring all cases found are adequately treated” as the two main national goals if NTBLCP.
“We applaud the private sector partners in the rising cases of TB, howbeit, there is need for improvement and up-to-date statistical data on TB cases in Nigeria.
“The introduction of this 16-module GeneXpert machine is a “milestone,” thus, we must use it optimally to achieve maximal results. Our mission goes beyond case finding to ensuring treatment for all cases.”
He encouraged stakeholders to re-strategize and think outside the box to fish out all TB cases.
Speaking, executive director, STOP TB Partnership, Mayowa Joel, expressed gratitude to USAID and SHOPS Plus for their efforts in facilitating and supporting private sector engagement. He emphasized the need to strengthen and sustain the public-private sector collaboration.
Also, the CEO of EL-Lab Medical Diagnostics Ltd, Elochukwu Adibo, pointed out the need for infrastructure and logistics upgrade, especially power supply, to meet demand for uninterrupted service delivery. Adibo also called on government and all concerned parties to remove the bottlenecks in the current partnerships to enable unhindered private sector contribution, to meet country goals and National Strategic Plan for TB, which will ultimately improve Nigeria’s global ranking.
“The involvement of the private sector is gradually ensuring that Nigeria’s pitiable ranking as sixth globally among the high burden countries and first in Africa with high burden for TB becomes a thing of the past,” he maintained.
Speaking before unveiling the machine, the director of Disease Control, Lagos State, Agbolagorite Olurotimi, who represented the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Prof. Emmanuel Akinola Abayomi, commended the private sector for their contributions at all levels, from case finding to treatment of TB cases. He particularly commended EL-Lab’s commitment in testing samples from government and private facilities.
He urged stakeholders to continue to work at the desired goal, as Nigeria still has a long way to go with regard to TB case finding and treatment. He promised to investigate the identified bottlenecks that hinder private sector involvement, and encouraged stakeholders to keep identifying and reporting such hindrances.
The registrar/CEO, Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, Tosan Erhabor, said, “Our council shall continue to scale up TB case-finding and treatment. We congratulate EL-Lab Diagnostics on the official unveiling of the First ever 16 modules GeneXpert machine in Nigeria.”