As Nigeria marshals out various strategies to contain further spread of COVID-19 pandemic across the country, an advocacy group, Lifeline Centre for Medical and Health Rights Advocacy (LICMEHRA), has called for more government’s action in the health sector, even as it commended medical and health workers in the frontline for their sterling performances so far.
The call was made in a statement on International Workers’ Day, by the group to celebrate the Nigerian workers. It commended the courage, dedication; selflessness, ethical best practices, care and skills so far displayed by the medical and health workers in the care and treatment of COVID-19 patients worldwide, and particularly in Nigeria. It also enjoined health workers to continue to adhere strictly to all protocols released by the authorities for prevention of the spread of the pandemic and to work according to rules prescribed by government for the eventual end to the scourge, seen as enemy of humankind
In a statement made available to Daily Sun, LICMEHRA’s president, Professor Uwakwe Abugu, noted that the indispensable role of Nigeria’s medical and health workers in the detection, testing, tracing, isolation, care and treatment of COVID-19 pandemic, and eventual control and end to the pandemic cannot be overemphasized. He said: “The government must take the care, safety and welfare of the medical and health workers as utmost priority to ensure that they are healthy and strong enough to take care of the rest of us.”
He lamented that government has not done enough to secure the lives and safety of health workers in Nigeria, saying, “It is on record that about 113 health workers are now in different isolation centres across Nigeria, having been infected in the line of duty, while one doctor is reported to have died. Also, the recent deaths of over 640 persons in Kano from unknown diseases is partly attributed to the fact that many of them were turned back from several government hospitals by health workers, who claimed that they lacked enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to secure themselves. The implication is that the rate of death would have been reduced to the barest minimum if the health workers had enough PPE.”
Abugu equally condemned government’s failure to adhere to the international protocol for admitting patients in hospitals to safeguard the health and safety of health workers in the fight against the pandemic.
He said: “In cases of widespread infectious disease, epidemic or pandemic as we have now, officers of Centre for Disease Control (CDC) are supposed to be posted and stationed as first desk officer or first contact to see every incoming patient and determine whether such person should move to the traditional hospital admission and ward care or should be isolated immediately at the slightest suspicion of a dangerous infectious disease.
“This ensures that the health workers are shielded from direct contact with a prospective patient without appropriate PPE. There are so many cases in Nigeria where patients who were admitted directly into wards had turned out to be positive for COVID-19 after spending several days and infecting health workers in the wards.”
The don called on the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to immediately dispatch their officers to all Federal Teaching Hospitals, Specialist and Federal Medical Centres to check and screen any prospective patient for early detection and protection of health workers, even as he applauded the Federal Government for taking out insurance policies for the first time in Nigeria for about 5,000 health workers who are directly involved in the care and treatment of COVID-19 patients.
“We note, however, that the number of health workers covered so far is grossly inadequate and unacceptable. Much as all health workers may not be covered at the same time and immediately, considering the strain on government finances, we urge the government to increase the number of coverage, especially since more and more health workers are being trained to join in coping with exponential rise in COVID-19 cases,” he added.