Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Some members of the Ebonyi State’s chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), on Tuesday, protested the death of two of their colleagues and a nurse who died of the Lassa fever virus.
The deceased medical officers, whose names were given as Dr. Abel Udor Sunday from Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Felix Ali from Afikpo, Ebonyi State and the nurse, Mr. Iwe Innocent, until there death, were members of staff of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (FETHA).
One of the doctors and other officers were said to have carried out operation on a patient who turned out to be a carrier of Lassa fever about three weeks earlier. The patient was said to have spread the disease to the health officers that worked on him but he survived.
The protesting doctors, armed with placards with various inscriptions, marched from the FETHA 1 to the front of Government House, Abakaliki, where they were addressed by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Health Services, Dr. Sunday Nwangele.
The aggrieved doctors, led by NMA treasurer, Dr. Onwe Oliver Mbam, lamented that the deaths were avoidable. Dr. Mbam said that if the Federal Government had done the needful in the Virology Centre built and handed over to the Federal Government, the deaths might not have occurred.
In the words of Mbam, “From 2015, Lassa fever has been killing health workers. There has never been a year that past without us losing minimum of two or three health workers,” he lamented.
“It has been like that till after last year’s occurrence, the Ebonyi State Governor took a drastic action and built a virology centre in FETHA and equipped it. He invited the Minister for Health to commission it.
“We understood that on the request of the governor for the payment of the money he spent, the presidency said that they would rather use the money to make that place functional. But till date, as we speak with you, that place is not functional.
“That was the place that our colleagues were taken to when they contacted this deadly virus. Dr Felix Ali and Dr Abel Sunday spent a day there; the nurse spent about four days there before they died,” he added.
Addressing the protesters, Dr. Sunday Nwangele, disclosed that the state government would be taking drastic actions to make the Virology Centre functional.
“The governor is inviting an expert with his team who have managed another Virology Centre to move into this place and take over the virology centre. I have been directed to call Prof. Omilagbo of Lagos University Teaching Hospital and he has consented to it.
“Any moment from today, Prof. Omilagbo will arrive the state with his team and manage this present outbreak for a month or two. In the course of doing that, whatever that is not functional, he will put it to use,” he explained.
However, at a press briefing held at FETHA 2, the NMA leadership disclosed that from 200 –2018 the state has lost more than 40 health workers and uncountable health workers to Lassa fever disease.
Meanwhile, indications have emerged that the management of the issues surrounding the deaths of the doctors have created a crack in the leadership of the NMA in the state and their members.
Daily Sun gathered that the protest, led by the NMA treasurer, Dr. Onwe Mbam, does not have the endorsement of the NMA leadership in the state.