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Medical union raises alarm over rising cases of misdiagnosis

Sunday December 22 2019
By COLLINS OMULO

A union of medical laboratory officers has raised the alarm over an increase in cases of misdiagnosis of diseases.

The Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO) said it is estimated that three out of 10 patients in Kenya get the wrong diagnosis or treatment.

The union’s Secretary-General, Mr Enock Wanyonyi, explained that the cases are the result of poor quality testing, with HIV, H. pylori and tuberculosis in the lead.

HIV

Mr Wanyonyi said many cases of HIV misdiagnosis, through substandard rapid test strips, have been reported in various parts of the country, with many wrongly put on anti-retrovirals (ARVs).

He said many Kenyans have also been put on anti-TB drugs while those who have been wrongly diagnosed with H. pylori have ended up having ulcers.

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He said majority of the cases are in Nairobi and noted that the H. pylori kit costs Sh6,000, an unnecessary expense for many.

“Many are suffering in silence as the ministry has condemned them in the name of saving numbers to attract donor funds. Only the brave ones have dared to talk but the ministry is doing its best to silence them,” he said.

EQUIPMENT

Mr Wanyonyi further noted that the number of cases of misdiagnosis has increased since medical laboratory officers lack the capacity to offer quality services.

He also noted that the role of validating equipment was assigned to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, which told the Senate's Health committee that it does not have the capacity for the role, raising questions on the safety and quality of imported medical equipment.

“It is very clear that equipment coming to Kenya is not validated so how sure of their safety can Kenyans be?"

APPEAL

The union wants the government to ensure disease testing is only done by qualified personnel, using validated reagents and equipment validated, in accordance with world best practices.

“Only qualified medical laboratory officers are competent enough to perform investigations and analysis. Quality assurance in medical laboratory testing is an integral part of testing human clinical specimens,” Mr Wanyonyi noted.

KNUMLO chairperson, Mr Cliff Randa, also raised concerns about preparedness for diseases such as Ebola and anthrax at a time, saying the government has neglected laboratory officers.

“Recently you heard of a malaria outbreak in Baringo and within two days, 20 people had died. Imagine [what would have happened] had it been Ebola or anthrax," he said.

"We cannot let citizens suffer yet we have the capacity to handle that which we were trained to."

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