31-year-old Ncumisa's path lab opened to ease Covid testing backlog now ready for national expansion

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Ncumisa Adams operates EconoLab in East London. Images supplied by EconoLab
Ncumisa Adams operates EconoLab in East London. Images supplied by EconoLab

  • Medical technician, Ncumisa Adams, opened a pathology laboratory in East London in 2019, just months before the novel coronavirus broke out. 
  • Unbeknownst to Ncumisa (and the whole world), pathology services were about to become a highly sought-after service as the coronavirus holds the world’s population hostage. 
  • During the first wave of the pandemic, the 31-year-old was approved for a contract with the Department of Health to assist the department with their backlog, which she completed successfully.
  • Now, with 2020 behind us - but as we’re still plagued with the effects of the pandemic - Ncumisa Adams’ lab EconoLab is expanding to Midrand, Johannesburg and Durban as of 1 February 2021. 

With 2020 behind us - but as we’re still plagued with the effects of the pandemic - Ncumisa Adams’ lab EconoLab is expanding to the north of South Africa after an opportunity to launch to continue offering testing where it’s needed the most. 

As if by premonition, Ncumisa decided to open a pathology laboratory in East London in 2019, 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 coronavirus holds the world’s population hostage. 

During the first wave of the pandemic, she was approved for a contract with the Department of Health to assist the department with their backlog. The contract was for 20 000 tests, which she completed in addition to around 5000 private walk-in clients.  

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“Ever since I started, I got a lot of support from the local doctors in the Eastern Cape, specifically from East London. They have been supporting me a lot, especially with Covid-19. The big private labs were overwhelmed so I was assisting them,” she says.

Ncumisa is a medical technician in clinical pathology and has been testing bloods for diagnosis of various ailments long before she decided to open her private lab. Now, with two labs running - one in East London and another in Rustenburg - she will open a branch in Midrand and another in Durban on 1 February 2021. 

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. 

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.

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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.

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

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

pathology
Ncumisa Adams, founder of EconoLab. Photo: Supplied by EconoLab
EconoLab
Supplied by EconoLab

“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 explains.

Ncumisa fills this gap for her patients as she tests mainly bloods and human specimens from outpatients who are referred by doctors.

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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.

As she works on the expansion of EconoLab, Ncumisa has her sights on further growth having a state-of-the-art laboratory in Johannesburg and serve people in mining areas.  

She says; “As much as I’m having all four branches now with the Rustenburg and Joburg ones, I’m trying by all means to focus on the mining areas because there’s lots of infections in the mines because you find the mine workers living in congested places. So, I saw that there hasn’t been enough testing offered to the mine workers. The Rustenburg and the Joburg branches are mainly opened to focus on the mining industry.”

In addition to Covid, EconoLab does testing and medicals for other infections. 

With this promising expansion ahead for the business she started solo, Ncumisa hopes to get partnerships “with other people who have got the same vision” to achieve business milestones.

“With the little knowledge that I have with regards to business I have figured that in order to grow you need to bring other people on board,” she says.

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