Biochemical and immuno-hematological test availability during the COVID-19 pandemic: The case of private diagnostic laboratories in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Background: Since the emergence of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) in China, in December 2019, the pandemic has continued to be a major public health threat. According to the World Health Organization, on March 02, 2021, there were113,989,973 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, and 2,531,542 reported deaths. In Ethiopia on the same period, there were159,072 confirmed cases and 2,365 reported deaths. Efforts have been made in Ethiopia to make COVID-19 Biochemical and immuno-hematological tests available; however, the role of private diagnostic laboratories with this perspective has not been assessed. This study aims to address the role of private diagnostic laboratories as service providers of various laboratory tests that can help with the management of COVID-19 patients.
Materials and methods: A cross-sectional survey was carried out with seven standalone laboratories in Addis Ababa. A questionnaire and observation checklists – adopted from the World Health Organization, were used to prepare a structured questionnaire and on-site evaluations of the availability of biochemical and immuno-hematological tests in the city. The data collection tool also assessed whether the diagnostic laboratories had back-up instruments for common biochemical and immuno-hematological tests. The data entry and analysis were conducted using SPSS software version 20.
Results: Among the 7 private diagnostic laboratories participated in this study majority of them have professionals who are males (N=20/33, 60.6%). Most of the laboratory professionals in the private laboratories had Bachelor of Science degrees in medical laboratory sciences (15/33, 45.5%). Almost all of them provide organ function tests including liver and renal functions. However, some important tests like D-dimer were not available. All the laboratories claimed that they had adequate stock for conducting hematological tests, although none had GeneXpert® MTB/RIF assays for detection Mycobacterium tuberculosis and testing for rifampin resistance.
Conclusions: Private diagnostic laboratories that offer clients most clinical chemistry, hematological and immuno-hematological tests are to be welcomed, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when public health diagnostic laboratories could be overburdened, and the stock of reagents might be low or unavailable. There should be a means to strengthen public-private partnerships and both patients and clinicians could benefit a lot by availing diagnostics as needed. Further detailed study is required to understand the role of private diagnostic laboratories during outbreaks and pandemics situation. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2021; 35(1):3-8]
Key words: Private laboratory, biochemical tests, hematological tests, COVID-19