On January 9, 2015, the National Universities Commission suspended admissions into Medical Laboratory Science courses for the 2015/2016 academic session. Among other reasons, the decision was taken to enable the commission take stock of the programme.
According to the NUC Director of Academic Standards, Dr. Gidado Kumo, the Commission has numerous unresolved problems with the MLS and the Medical Laboratory Council.
He said, “We decided as a commission whose responsibility it is to oversee all the programmes to stop the programmes and take stock of the activities of the programmes and the council across Nigerian university system.”
Kumo described as illegal the directive from the council for the establishment of Medical Laboratory Science faculties insisting that it should be a department within the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences in the Colleges of Health Science.
This directive has, however, generated a lot of furore in the nation’s academic circles.
The Medical Laboratory Council, the head, Education, Alhaji Muftau Abdul-Azeez, disclosed to our correspondent that the Council was in dialogue with the commission and it had given the NUC reasons why the course should be reinstated into the nation’s academic programme.
This is not the first time the NUC has given such a directive. In June 2012, it suspended all part-time programmes run by universities in the country. It claimed the move was to enable the regulatory body “streamline’’ them.
The following month, July, the NUC also suspended the operational licences of seven private universities. According to the commission, the universities involved had allegedly violated its guidelines in physical facilities and academic programmes. The affected universities were Lead City, Caritas, Joseph Ayo Babalola, Tansian, Madonna, Achievers and Obong. However, some of these universities were given back their licences.
Meanwhile, some students who spoke with our correspondent described the NUC action as a wrong one. They urged the commission to revoke the ban.
One of them, Cyprian Oke, who hopes to write the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination in May, said, “I see no reason why the commission took such a huge step without thinking of the consequences. There are students who have dreamt of becoming laboratory scientists, what does the NUC want them to do? It is really unfair.
“The sad thing is that I wish we had a President who could overrule NUC’s decision, but we don’t. He may not even be aware.”
Similarly, another student, Kuteyi Anuoluwapo who hopes to get admitted into the Obafemi Awolowo University this year said the country would experience a great loss if the programme was eventually scrapped.
“I know of some students who can’t study any other course. They just can’t fit into other discipline. I really wish the commission thinks about its move. It is a wrong move. The nation even needs laboratory scientists; this is one profession that plays a big role in the nation’s health care sector. Sometimes, I feel the NUC just wakes up in the morning and thinks of a move to make that would make news,” he said.
Ms. Keji Egbedeyi, currently studying Economics at the University of Lagos was also against the directive even though her degree has no correlation with medical laboratory science.
She said, “I feel sorry for students who had Medical Laboratory Science in mind. This means they now have to look for another course. What will happen to undergraduates who have already been admitted into the programme? Something urgently needs to be done. In developed countries, before such a step is taken, the opinion of stakeholders or those involved are sought. I wonder why this can’t happen here, the reverse happens in Nigeria.”
Unlike the others, Sunny Anthony, a 300-level student of Building Engineering, Ambrose Alli University, backed the directive.
He said, “I support the NUC’s directive because there are so many universities in the country which lack the necessary facilities to run this course. Another thing I think can be done is for the NUC to permit universities that are up-to-date with facilities needed to run this course to go ahead with their admission.”
An educationist, Prof. Sam Onuigbo of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, faulted the directive. He hinged his decision on the role medical laboratory scientists play in the field of medicine.
“There are courses that have to provide prior information for progressive development in the field of medicine and MLS is one of them. It is also one course that plays a key role in medical field. Many hospitals depend on laboratory information for effective diagnosis and treatment of ailments. Anyone who interferes with the smooth-running of this course is indirectly limiting reliable information that emanates from this profession. I see no reason why the course should be suspended, students are doing well in this course, in hospitals, they provide first aid information whenever a doctor is absent,” he said.
The immediate past National President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, Dr. Godswill Okara, added that the role of medical laboratory scientists is multifaceted in terms of the delivery of health care services.
He said, “This group provides research in medicine. It has also been noted that laboratory is the bedrock of evidence-based health care practice. Even the World Health Organisation has made it clear that laboratory is the foundation for accurate diagnosis and definitive treatment of disease. Laboratory introduced science into the practice of medicine and surgery. It is therefore only important that NUC and the Medical Laboratory Science Council partner to seek ways to enhance the profession.
“In addition, laboratory scientists should be given proper holistic training in universities which will enable them function properly in the society. It is high time we discouraged medical tourism abroad. This is as a result of poor diagnostic capacity of our health care system. If we are not able to get a definitive diagnosis of one’s problem, then any treatment rendered would be a waste of resources. We need excellent laboratory facilities so that before any treatment is instituted, the root of the problem is discovered through laboratory investigations. They are not often personally involved with patients, yet laboratory scientists play a crucial role in the process of providing personalised care. They generate vitally important data for identifying and treating cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other health conditions”
A public health physician, Dr. Tanimola Akande, said medical laboratory scientists could be referred to as medical technologists and that their role is inevitable.
“The medical laboratory scientist uses advanced technology to perform analyses on blood and other body fluids that are useful in detecting and/or treating disease. Working closely with physicians and other allied health professionals, the medical laboratory scientist (often called a medical technologist) plays an integral role in comprehensive patient care by providing accurate and timely results. Graduates of a medical laboratory science-training programme have a firm foundation enabling them to work in the medical laboratory.
“Laboratory scientists play an increasingly important role in health care delivery. I must say their programme provides extensive training, including a clinical internship with supervised work experience. This qualifies graduates to run clinical tests required by physicians to make life-affecting decisions in patient care. It would be a big mistake for the course to be suspended.”
Meanwhile, the Project Manager, Ondo State Action Committee on Aids, Dr. Dayo Adegbulu, has called for unity among health personnel. He said the friction going on in the health sector is affecting the kind of service offered to members of the public.
“Right now there is a lot of disunity between doctors and laboratory scientists. Some lab scientists are not ready to take orders from doctors. The bottom line is that there has to be job description. Each group must know their job duties and who they report to. Our sector is partly in its current state because of the disunity going on in the sector,” he said.
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