Chaos at TTH medical laboratory over Covid-19 exposure

The need for collaboration among the various professional bodies at our hospitals has always been stated but hardly implemented. This is usually due to outdated or non-existent policies to manage these relationships. In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, one would have thought that there would be a better collaboration at the hospitals to mitigate the risk of exposing professionals to more danger than they are already exposed to. Unfortunately, it is Chaos at the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH) now as the medical laboratory is on shut down over COVID-19 exposure from one of the Guineans who were confirmed positive earlier this week.

One of the Guineans underwent dialysis at the Urology Unit of the Tamale Teaching hospital before he was confirmed positive for coronavirus infection. Following this information, the doctors, nurses and other members of the health team who had contact with the patient were taken into mandatory quarantine and their samples were taken for testing.

That is the right thing to do after exposure of that nature. Unfortunately, the medical laboratory and its staff were completely forgotten/ignored.

When the confirmation got to the hospital, the management completely left out the medical laboratory in the preventive actions. Management of the medical laboratory was not informed in any way and was left to chance.

It was days later that the management of the medical laboratory chanced on the news and started to trace if samples from that patient went to the laboratory so they can also take measures to protect themselves and their families.

Speaking to a source at the Laboratory at Tamale Teaching Hospital, I was informed it took close to 4 days before they could even get the name of the patient in order to check against their records. It was after this unnecessarily lengthy exercise that the management learnt that:

  • Blood sample from this patient was sent to the A/E  laboratory unit for analysis.
  • Sample of the patient blood was also sent to the blood bank with a request for two units of blood. The two units of blood were given two different times meaning scientist had a double exposure while cross-matching the blood sample.

After the laboratory management learnt of this, they quickly closed down the affected units and samples from all the workforce in those units were taken and they have since been put under self-quarantine awaiting the results.

What does this mean?

It means that if a single test comes back positive for the infection, the entire team of medical laboratory scientist who works so hard to get your blood tested are at risk. Their families and friends are also exposed since they return home every day after work.

How Scientists Quantify the Intensity of an Outbreak Like COVID-19
R0 describes how many cases of a disease an infected person will go on to cause – in this imagined scenario R0=2. Graphic courtesy of The Conversation, which has been slightly modified.

They will all be under mandatory quarantine and won’t be able to work on clients. Right now, the blood bank is closed. What happens to patients who need a blood transfusion? What happens to the patients who were exposed to this group of scientist after their exposure? Remember they worked for almost a week before the revelation.

These are some of the consequences of the broken healthcare system Ghana is currently working with. Professional politics is rated above the lives of our patients in importance.

I am writing this as a medical laboratory scientist so if you feel pain in my voice it is because there is a pain in there. Our members are always exposed to this level of danger but hardly are they mentioned.

Have you ever paused to ask who those behind the testing are? Who are those taking the samples and all the front-line medical stuff? It is the medical scientist. They have to confirm all the positive cases and if you have recovered they have to confirm the recovery and if it is safe for you to move back into the community.

But in the news, you will not hear of a medical laboratory scientist. It’s just clinicians and nurses.

Now you may think recognition is not important since they are doing their work but make no mistake, everyone deserves recognition. It is this same attitude that has led to the exposure of the whole medical laboratory task force to the Coronavirus infection.

If the other health team were aware of their medical laboratory team members, the preventive measures would have covered them all. You would think the management of a big hospital like TTH should not make such mistakes at this critical time but here we are.

What they have in their mind has played out. This will undermine the entire preventive efforts put by TTH if a single case comes back positive. The team in charge should have thought the process through but they did not. They simply worked with those members they could see.

They forgot that the laboratory results were produced by professionals. They forgot that the blood was tested and cross-matched by professionals. Even the machine that was used for the dialysis was put out of use and yet they could not simply trace the path of the patient.

It is mind-boggling that as central as the medical laboratory is to healthcare, they were forgotten by management. The worrying aspect is that management of the laboratory had to work through huge bureaucracy to get the name of the said patient in order to protect themselves. This is disheartening.

That is why medical laboratory scientist always cries for the implementation of the national medical laboratory policy in order to give structure to the sector. We need to reason above professional politics and do the needful. The medical laboratory scientist is a professional member of the healthcare team, don’t only look to them when you are helpless.

To every scientist out there, keep your cool and continue to render your services. Someday your voice will be heard. Your sacrifice will be worthwhile and the world will come to learn of your importance.

To policymakers, if you continue to listen to only one member of the health team for policies, there will always be disgruntled staff at your hospitals. This creates internal conflicts among various professionals which will continue to lead to bizarre outcomes such as this.


To everyone out there, stay home and stay safe.

4 COMMENTS

  1. It is so sad an incident like this can happen. When we talk of recognition as Laboratory Scientists we say that to the populace out there, how they can see us as relevant to health care delivery system, it becomes more disheartening when the so called health system itself don’t recognize us or see us for what we really are. This still seems so incredulous to my ears.We really have a long a way to go in this nation.

  2. It’s Time for the scientist to voice out in GHANA. All these pathogens are playing at the lab where we work, still we are not recognized in the healthcare system. Health workers are not Doctors and nurses alone.
    We deserve better

  3. Its hard time Ghanaians respect and recognise lab scientists its pity you hear nurses and doctors all over the count, even Ghanian scholars don’t know how important this people are to our healthcare system. Its so sad

  4. The truth is that, it is not only Tamale alone experiencing this. There are many untold stories in many health facilities. The pride, arrogance and ignorance display at many of our facilities are rather the danger that we face as a country.
    There are some in helm of affairs who feels they don’t need the contributions from other putting the lives of many in danger.
    If we stand any chance to scientifically deal with COVID-19, then TEAMWORK must fully be enforced

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