As if by premonition, Ncumisa Adams decided to open a pathology laboratory in East London late last year, and only a few months later, reports of a virus threatening the livelihoods of residents of Wuhan, China started to surface.

Unbeknownst to Ncumisa (and the whole world), pathology services were about to become a highly sought after service as the virus, which we now know to be Covid-19, holds the world’s population hostage until a vaccine is found.

Until then, women (and men) like Ncumisa will be the dotted line between life and death for those who need coronavirus testing.

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Ncumisa’s lab, EconoPath, may be relatively new; however, this medical technician in clinical pathology has been testing bloods for diagnosis of various ailments long before she decided to start her private lab.

From the onset, her mission was to “help the sick, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Initially, she had planned to study medicine, but not being accepted to medical school presented a detour that gave her an opportunity to pursue her passion from behind the scenes.

She had the option to either study towards any other Bachelor of Science degree or biomedical technology, and she chose the latter.

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It took a profound experience with a loved one to steer her towards her career choice.

“I had a relative who was very ill and needed blood tests, but unfortunately, she succumbed to her illness while waiting for the results. I felt that if she had been diagnosed sooner, her life might have been saved,” Ncumisa says, recalling the incident that made her realise the challenges of access to pathological services.

As a result, she decided to study biomedical technology at Nelson Mandela University, and later qualified as a medical technologist in clinical pathology at Pathcare Academy.

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Ncumisa has worked as a clinpath tech for various labs, including Pathcare and Ampath.

But she needed to do more, hence she started EconoPath, which offers blood testing as well as DNA services.

“I saw that there was an influx of black doctors in the townships, and I wanted the doctors and community members to have access to pathology services. For many people, it is difficult to present themselves for testing as they lack public transport. Also, most blood tests are done on hospitalised patients, which leaves outpatients with no way of knowing if they have health concerns until they get ill,” Ncumisa says.

Ncumisa fills this gap for her patients as she tests mainly bloods and human specimens from outpatients who are referred by doctors. Although there haven't been requests yet, EconoPath offers Covid-19 testing and is ready to start testing as soon as there is a demand in the area.

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“Our country is going through a lot, and I felt that we need pathology services, especially because some public health facilities are overburdened with patients who require testing,” she says.

“I recently read in the papers that the Eastern Cape is experiencing problems with a backlog in DNA results required for domestic violence and rape cases. Helping the government deal with such issues is one of the reasons I started EconoPath.”

EconoPath has plans to expand operations to accommodate hospital patients as well as opening laboratories in Mthatha and Matatiele.

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