The quality of many of Cameroon’s medical laboratories leaves much to be desired. Either the equipment is obsolete or the staff has not undergone enough refresher courses to cope with fast-evolving technology and other developments in the profession. As a result, some test results are erroneous. This lays the foundation for every other thing to go wrong. Because of the misleading nature of the medical laboratory scientist or technician’s result, the consulting nurse or medical doctor is most likely to give a wrong prescription. This can only be avoided if they ask for a second opinion, by demanding another test – probably from a different laboratory.
Understandably, the patient whose test result is erroneous and prescription wrong cannot expect anything better. The likelihood is that their disease or sickness will be poorly treated. This could result in continuous sickness, temporary or permanent incapacitation or even death. And if discovered, the victim or their relatives might take legal action against the erring medical practitioner. If the case is proven in court, the Medical Doctor and Medical Laboratory Scientist or Technician at the origin of the error might be sanctioned by their various professional bodies. All this does no good to the image or reputation of their professions.
Above all, it creates lack of trust in the ability of laboratory and medical staff to deliver. According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, 70 per cent of wrong diagnoses of diseases by doctors is traced to incorrect laboratory results. Given the seriousness of unreliable tests, WHO on July 20, 2011, issued a policy recommendation, warning that the use of currently available commercial blood (serological) tests to diagnose active Tuberculosis (TB) often leads to misdiagnosis, mistreatment and potential harm to public health. WHO urged countries to ban the inaccurate and unapproved blood tests and instead rely on accurate microbiological or molecular tests.